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Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, who built a nationwide media empire out of the alternative weekly newspaper Phoenix New Times, turned themselves in to authorities in California on Monday, facing charges they profited from the prostitution business through on their Back website. The two men are charged with conspiring to commit the crime of pimping, according to the criminal complaint. The men turned themselves in to the sheriff's department of Sacramento County late Monday afternoon and were booked into the county's main jail, according to Kristin Ford, deputy communications director for the California Department of Justice.

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Lacey and Larkin are accused of profiting from a classified advertising website that was a thinly-disguised online brothel. Liz McDougall, an attorney for the website, said Monday she had no comment on the arrest.

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In announcing Ferrer's arrest and the warrants for Lacey and Larkin, authorities in California accused the men of knowingly running their business in a way that promoted and facilitated prostitution. Lacey and Larkin lost any claim to deniability, according to authorities, because law enforcement had told them repeatedly that their site was used for prostitution, some involving girls. According to documents filed to justify the arrest warrant, an investigator said that Back derived at least 90 percent of its revenue from adultmostly female escorts.

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Back allows users to post all manner of classifiedbut it became dominated by adultincluding those advertising escort services. As part of the California investigation, according to the court papers, an agent placed an ad offering escort services and another ad offering a sofa for sale. The escort ad resulted in hundreds of calls and texts; the sofa received only one query.

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InLacey and Larkin sold off the newspapers and made Back its own company. The two had controlling interest in the new company. Lacey said the two did so in part, because it was difficult to run the news operations while fighting the legal troubles of Back.

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The website had become the target of legal action and protests in several states because users had illicitly posted to market prostitution. Activists were able to redefine prostitution, which had been seen as a nuisance crime, as an epidemic under the term, sex trafficking.

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Activists warned that girls were being lured into prostitution and that adult prostitutes should also be seen as victims, as they were likely lured into prostitution as girls. Law enforcement would conduct undercover stings, luring men into hotel rooms, often by posting fake on the Back website.

McDougall had argued before a state task force on sex trafficking that the website provided a benefit to law enforcement by providing a place where law enforcement could investigate trafficking and sexual predators. If the site closed its adultMcDougall argued, such traffic might move overseas, away from U. Ferrer is facing 10 counts associated with felony pimping, five of which involved minors, authorities allege. Lacey and Larkin are each charged with one count of conspiring to commit acts of pimping.

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The crime carries a maximum prison sentence of eight years. Senate seat, the first open Senate seat in California in decades. Lacey and Larkin were jailed at the same time in Octoberthough the charges of obstruction of justice were later dropped.

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A grand jury subpoena asked New Times for information on visitors to its website. Lacey and Larkin balked at the move and wrote a story disclosing the subpoena, a violation of the law.

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Facebook Twitter. Former Phoenix New Times executives in custody in California. Richard Ruelas The Republic azcentral.

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