A man accused of sex trafficking a Texas teenage girl has been arrested in the Dominican Republic after fleeing the Lone Star State to avoid prosecution. The man allegedly fled after an investigation by the Texas Office of the Attorney General’ (OAG) human trafficking unit and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) led to an indictment against the man and a co-conspirator.
Issac Lynn Williams, 28, was discovered to be hiding in the Dominican Republic by law enforcement officials. The OAG and DPS teamed up with the U.S. Marshall’s Service to find the fugitive. Williams has waived extradition and is now awaiting transportation back to Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement Wednesday.
“This case shows that we’ll go to whatever lengths and distance required to catch human traffickers and put them behind bars,” Paxton said. “The human trafficking unit of my office is dedicated to relentlessly pursuing every perpetrator who seeks to prey on innocent and vulnerable victims of this heinous crime. We will work relentlessly to break the ability of those like Backpage.com to facilitate modern-day slavery.”
The OAG and DPS conducted an investigation into human sex trafficking being promoted on Backpage.com. During the 2014 investigation, Williams and a woman named Deborah Cooper were found to be pimping a 17-year-old girl, the OAG stated. The young woman was eventually rescued and Cooper was arrested. Williams fled and left Cooper to face the charges alone. She eventually pleaded guilty to Promotion of Prostitution of a Minor. As part of the plea agreement, Cooper agreed to testify against Williams. She was sentenced to five years deferred adjudication.
In October 2015, General Paxton made the highest profile human trafficking bust in Texas history with the arrest of Backpage.com CEO Carl Ferrer, Breitbart Texas’ Lana Shadwick reported.
“Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas,” Attorney General Paxton said at a press conference announcing the arrest. “I intend to use every resource my office has to make sure those who profit from the exploitation and trafficking of persons are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Nearly 35 members of the OAG’s Law Enforcement Unit participated in the arrest of the CEO and search of the company’s Dallas headquarters. An affidavit for a search warrant revealed the company is, “currently the single largest purveyor of Internet sex ads in the United States, and Backpage.com’s profits from this line of business register in the millions yearly.”
The probable cause stated within the affidavit for a search warrant includes:
The adult escort ads posted on Backpage.com are advertisements for prostitution, the exchange of sexual acts for a fee. People engaged in prostitution pay Backpage.com to post advertisements soliciting potential buyers for their sexual services.
Backpage receives more than 90% of their revenues from the adult escort ad portion of their classified advertising. In California, that amounts to approximately $50 million in revenues for the period between January 2013 to May 31, 2015, or between $1.5 to $2.5 million per month.
CARL FERRER has been the CEO of Backpage.com since 2012, but has handled the day-to-day operations for the company for much longer. Carl Ferrer has been told directly by law enforcement about prostitution on Backpage.com, and is regularly copied on the hundreds of law enforcement subpoenas and requests that Backpage.com receives each year related to prostitution and sex trafficking of both adults and minors on the website. Ferrer’s communications and emails obtained by search warrant, his interactions with law enforcement, and even the public statements of his high level executives, such as his General Counsel, reflect personal knowledge that Backpage.com derives support or maintenance from the earnings of people engaged in prostitution.
In December 2016, another man pleaded guilty to child sex trafficking after using Backpage.com to promote his illicit activities. Deangelo Tate, 27, admitted to one count of sex trafficking children over a three-month period in 2015. During that time, he promoted via Backpage.com, the sexual services of a 17-year-old girl, Breitbart Texas reported. He admitted to investigators that he knew the girl was underage at the time but said she “had no credibility because of her age,” court documents revealed. During the three-month-long trafficking of the girl, Tate would take all of her money and be physically violent if she did not follow instructions. The girl managed to call for help, begging the 911 operator for help. Corpus Christi police responded and found the girl.
In another Backpage related case in October, Shadwick reported Nancy Cisneros was charged with pimping a 16-year-old girl, again advertising the services on Backpage.com.
Following the arrest of the Backpage.com CEO and pressure from the exposure of repeated human trafficking crimes being promoted on the site, BackPage.com shut down its adult services ads. In addition to the investigation by the Texas OAG, a U.S. Senate panel also shined a very bright light on the alleged dirty dealings of the website.
“A U.S. Senate report, released earlier this week, accuses the site of running ads that knowingly facilitate the online trafficking of women and children,” Paxton stated about the shutdown. “Backpage shuttered its ‘adult’ content in the U.S. just hours before the report was issued on Monday (January 9).”
A defiant Backpage.com stated, “The decision of Backpage.com today to remove its Adult section in the United States will no doubt be heralded as a victory by those seeking to shutter the site, but it should be understood for what it is: an accumulation of acts of government censorship using extra-legal tactics.”
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.