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Trial Begins For Backpage.com Journalists In Money Laundering Case

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Two journalists who founded a weekly newspaper in Phoenix and later created the lucrative classified site Backpage.com went on trial today on charges of facilitating prostitution and laundering money in what authorities say was a scheme to knowingly sell ads for sex on the site. Michael Lacey and James Larkin also are accused of using cryptocurrency and wiring money to foreign bank accounts to launder revenues earned from the site’s ad sales after authorities say banks raised concerns that they were being used for illegal purposes. Lacey and Larkin said the site never allowed ads for sex and used people and automated tools to try to delete such ads. While prosecutors say the site published many ads that depicted children who were victims of sex trafficking, no one in the federal case in Arizona is charged with sex trafficking or child sex trafficking. In all, six former Backpage operators have pleaded not guilty to charges of facilitating prostitution. Of the six, Lacey, Larkin and two others have pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges.

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