New Suit Against Backpage Bosses Could Be Game Changer

Readers of this blog will need no reminding that Backpage was seized by the US Justice Department in April of 2018. It was then that Carl Ferrer flipped on his associates and pleaded guilty to conspiracy and money laundering, agreeing to cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation.

Readers will also remember that Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey both pleaded not guilty and are scheduled for trial in Arizona later this spring. Ferrer, himself, awaits sentencing and could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if he is found to share in the culpability.

In our story yesterday we told you about Melanie Thompson who was forced into prostitution at age 12 by a man who held her against her will and sold her on the street and in an underground strip club.

Her exploitation worsened when her trafficker discovered Backpage because he could sell her more efficiently, Thompson said.

She explained: “There was an influx in the amount of sex buyers that purchased me from the website as opposed to street prostitution…There were a lot more individuals and a lot of them were more violent.”

There is good reason to be hopeful that Melanie Thompson’s case against the Backpage founders we first reported to you yesterday will be successful.

Thompson is being represented by the Seattle-based law firm of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, which won a settlement against Backpage in Washington state back in 2017 on behalf of three women who were sold for sex on the Backpage site as teens.

Jason Amala, one of Thompson’s attorneys, said the lawsuit should inspire other New Yorkers who were victimized by Backpage to follow suit. “I think she’s hoping that other people will come forward, particularly in New York” he said.

For her part Thompson, whose lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, said she wants other survivors “to see that they do have a voice and that they can use their voice in the way that I’m attempting to now.

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