What you need to know about child trafficking lawsuit against Backpage, local hotels, truck stops

By Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - A Houston firm has filed a new lawsuit against Backpage.com and a number of other businesses are being accused of online child sex trafficking.

The lawsuit claims the website enabled child sex trafficking, while hotel and truck stop chains did little to stop it.

The lawsuit contains more than 80 pages. 

The plaintiff or the victim in this case is identified only as Jane Doe, who is now 18 years old, but her attorney said she was 15-years-old at the time she was trafficked. 

There's a laundry list of defendants, but the first one listed is Backpage.com. 

The lawsuit claims Backpage.com and its executives, including CEO Carl Ferrer, systematically edited adult ads to hide evidence of child sex trafficking. Terms that were associated with child sex trafficking were automatically deleted -- but the ads remained online.

The lawsuit names truck stop companies and major hotel chains as defendants, claiming they benefited financially from sex trafficking and don't do enough to stop it.

Jane Doe's attorney, Annie McAdams, said her client, who was born and raised in Houston, was booked through Backpage.com when she was 15-years-old and taken to major hotels in Houston and met with multiple men in just one evening.

She claims Jane Doe was also taken to area truck stops where she was trafficked. 

McAdams said this went on for about a year until Jane Doe was rescued by Houston police at the end of 2015 during a sting operation. 

McAdams told KPRC 2 that they have spent seven months getting everything in order and they are prepared to go the distance with the lawsuit.

“We will shut down Backpage.com. We will shut down any business who profits off the exploitation of children through human trafficking,” McAdams said.

She said Jane Doe remains in recovery.

Ferrer was arrested in Houston in October 2016. 

He was charged with 10 counts of felony pimping out of California, but those charges were eventually dropped. Ferrer still faces money laundering charges connected to Backpage.com.

Love's Travel Stops released the following statement on the lawsuit:

"Love’s Travel Stops just received news of this lawsuit. We take these matters seriously and are looking into it."

What you need to know about the new lawsuit against Backpage.com

  • The plaintiff or victim in this case was born and raised in Houston, is now 18 years old and is referred to only as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit.
  • Defendants named in the lawsuit include Backpage.come, Hyatt Hotels, Flying J Transportation & Loves Travel Stops & Country Stores. The lawsuit claims they benefited financially from sex trafficking and don’t do enough to stop it.
  • The lawsuit claims Backpage.com and it’s executives, including CEO Carl Ferrer systematically edited adult ads to hide evidence of child sex trafficking.
  • Terms that were associated with child sex trafficking were automatically deleted but the ads remained on line.
  • The lawsuit claims Jane Doe was booked through Backpage.com and taken to major hotels in Houston and met with multiple men in just one evening.
  • The lawsuit also claims Jane Doe was taken to area truck stops on a weekend where she was trafficked.
  • The trafficking went on for about a year until Jane Doe was rescued by Houston police at the end of 2015 during a sting operation.
  • Ferrer was arrested in Houston in October 2016 and was charged with 10 counts of felony pimping out of California. Those charges were eventually dropped.
  • Ferrer still faces money laundering charges connected to Backpage.
  • KPRC has reached out to Backpage, Hyatt and two of the truck stops named in the lawsuit for a response.
  • Jane Doe remains in recovery. 

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