Atty. Gen. Harris Files New Pimping, Money-Laundering Charges Against Operators of Backpage.com

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U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris speaks onstage during Children's Defense Fund - California Hosts 24th Annual Beat The Odds Awards at Book Bindery on Dec. 4, 2014 in Culver City. (Credit: Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Children's Defense Fund)

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris announced new criminal charges Friday against the operators of classified ad website Backpage.com, accusing them of laundering earnings from escorts as well as pimping children and adult women on their websites.

The charges come two weeks after a Sacramento judge threw out pimping charges against the same three men, ruling that websites such as Backpage.com — which Harris had condemned as the “world’s top online brothel” — are protected from lawsuits when they publish speech posted by other people.

But in the new 40-count criminal complaint, Harris accused the operators of personally creating profiles for thousands of women, including minors, to increase revenue from the illegal sex trade. The profiles appeared on their two other websites, BigCity and EvilEmpire, which were used to draw Web traffic to Backpage’s prostitution business, the complaint said.

The complaint listed 10 victims whose profiles were created without their knowledge. In one case, a woman contacted Backpage to remove her photograph from EvilEmpire, but was told by Backpage staff that the two companies were not affiliated and therefore her picture could not be removed, according to the complaint.

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