James Larkin, a co-founder of Backpage.com, was released from the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix on a $1 million bond Monday as he awaits trial on charges the website facilitated prostitution.
Larkin, the former publisher of the Phoenix-based New Times alternative weekly, had been held in federal custody since April 6 after he was arrested while returning from a trip overseas, court records say.
Larkin was ordered to put up two properties as surety on the $1 million bond. It was not clear which ones. Court filings show he has a home in Paradise Valley, another in Napa Valley and an apartment in Paris.
Larkin also was placed under electronic surveillance.
Michael Lacey, another co-founder of Backpage was released from custody Friday on nearly identical terms: a $1 million bond and under electronic surveillance.
Backpage co-founder Michael Lacey and wife Jill Anderson leave the federal courthouse in Phoenix April 13, 2018. He was released from federal custody while awaiting trial on prostitution and money-laundering charges. Thomas Hawthorne/azcentral.com
Five other Backpage executives and employees were named in a 93-count federal indictment filed March 28. All have been released from custody.
A third co-founder of Backpage, Carl Ferrer, has pleaded guilty to facilitating prosecution and money laundering. Ferrer, who was the CEO of Backpage, also entered a guilty plea on behalf of the company.
In his plea, Ferrer said that he knew Backpage was being used to facilitate prostitution activities and that executives purposefully moderated ads so they could keep up a veneer of deniability that they knew how the website was being used.
MORE ON THE BACKPAGE CASE:
Apart from a two-year stint, Larkin had worked alongside Lacey at New Times since 1972, according to a filing by his attorney.
He and Lacey grew the newspaper into an empire of alternative weeklies, eventually buying the Village Voice in New York City.
In 2004, egged on by Ferrer — who worked in classified advertising at a New Times property in Texas — Lacey and Larkin started Backpage. Ferrer wanted to move the classified ads from the New Times into cyberspace.
The name of the website came from the title of the literal back page filled with ads on New Times newspapers.
The website grew to be dominated by adult advertising.
After its competitor, Craiglist, shut down its adult ads in 2010, Backpage became the new home for the “escort” ads.
Prosecutors obtained internal emails that showed executives and employees moderated the ads posted, discussing and debating what terms should be allowed. Those standards varied based on whether executives thought the website was being watched closely by law enforcement.
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