Free classifieds website, Backpage.com, was seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday, according to an announcement on their website.
Visitors who went to the advertising website were confronted with a notice from the FBI announcing its seizure.
The website offers a wide variety of good and services for sale. However, critics say the vast majority of ads posted were in the “adult services“ section. Authorities have said for years that many of the ads are thinly disguised offers for prostitution.
The notice reads:
Backpage.com and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, with analytical assistance from the Joint Regional Intelligence Center.
The founder of backpage.com, Michael Lacey lives in Sedona. The FBI confirmed to ABC15 there is law enforcement activity in the area. ABC15 also saw the FBI at Lacey's home in Paradise Valley.
ABC15 crews also saw the FBI at the Paradise Valley home of James Larkin, he is also a founder of backpage.com.
US Senator John McCain released the following statement regarding the seizure:
“The seizure of the malicious sex marketplace marks an important step forward in the fight against human trafficking. This builds on the historic effort in Congress to reform the law that for too long has protected websites like Backpage from being held liable for enabling the sale of young women and children. Today’s action sends a strong message to Backpage and any other company facilitating online sex trafficking that they will be held accountable for these horrific crimes."
More information is expected in the coming days. Right now, the case remains sealed.