The Backpage Shell Game

Deceit through obfuscation. In every sense, this could have been a motto for the Backpage during the time Carl Ferrer was Tony Ortega’s superior at the helm of the largest sex trafficking platform the United States has ever known.

This week we’ve been looking at how Ferrer directly reached out to pimps and traffickers in order to help them beat the bogus ‘monitoring’ system put in place which Backpage had hoped would somehow fool investigators. But there is another way in which Ferrer sought to obscure the Backpage’s dealings from prying eyes: shell corporations.

Case number 2018-04501 (Jane Doe #1 v. Backpage.com, et al.) currently being heard in the District Court in Harris County, Texas alleges that the Backpage, in order to better conceal its dealings, conducted business through a complex chain of subsidiary, or ‘shell’, corporations.

The suit alleges that through its parent company New Times Media, the following companies were, in the Court’s words, “mere alter egos” of Backpage itself:

  • Medalist Holdings, LLC
  • Camarillo Holdings, LLC
  • Leeward Holdings, LLC
  • Dartmoor Holdings, LLC
  • IC Holdings, LLC
  • Amstel River Holdings, LLC
  • Lupine Holdings, LLC
  • Kickapoo River Investments, LLC
  • CF Holdings GP, LLC
  • CF Acquisitions, LLC
  • Atlantische Bedrijven C.V.
  • UGC Tech Group C.V.

As if the sheer number of dummy corporations weren’t enough to send up red flags for investigators, the last two entities named (Atlantische Bedrijven C.V. and UGC Tech Group C.V.) have both been revealed to be Dutch limited partnerships owned and controlled by Carl Ferrer through five separate Delaware Limited Liability Corporations and are based in Curacao, an island currently listed by the European Union among the 19 countries it believes help rich, multinationals avoid tax authorities.

Indeed, it’s yet more proof that Ferrer’s ‘sex for money scheme’ was from the beginning a complex con; nothing more than an elaborate shell game designed to hide and obscure their dark intent. 

And Ortega knowingly lied when  he wrote:

“We’ve [Backpage.com] spent millions of dollars putting in place strict policies and monitoring services to make sure that it is only adults finding each other through Backpage.com’s adult pages. Not only do we have security specialists making constant searches for keywords that might indicate an underage user, but we’re quick to cooperate with law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children when we find suspicious ads.”

If Carlo Collodi had lived in our times he would have called his book “The Adventures of Ortega” instead of “The Adventures of Pinocchio”.

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