The Sex-Trafficking Kings of Facebook

By Michael Daly  The Daily Beast                                                                             

Tyrelle Lockett and his twin brother, Myrelle Lockett, were just 17 years old when they became the first individuals charged under a 2010 Illinois statute against human trafficking.

These Chicago-area twins were sentenced to four years, but after a “boot camp” program followed by a sentence reduction, they were soon paroled.

And now, at 21, both are back behind bars on sex-trafficking charges.

“You would think that people learn their lesson,” says Sgt. William Leen of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, who was involved in making the past and recent cases against the twins. “But obviously they didn’t.”

Myrelle is accused of attempting to force a woman he met on the Internet into prostitution. Tyrelle is being held on federal charges of trafficking in underage girls. Authorities say he took sex trafficking completely digital, one of a new generation of pimps who need only a smartphone to recruit girls, take pictures, post ads, and make appointments with johns.

“You can run the whole operation on your phone,” Leen says.

In the earlier case, the twins recruited at least one of the girls after meeting her at an alternative sentencing program where she landed after an unrelated arrest.

After their parole, Myrelle began exchanging messages online with an 18-year-old Minnesota woman. He and Tyrelle drove to meet the woman last June under what police describe as “false pretenses.”

The next thing the woman knew, she was being driven to the Chicago home of the twins’ father, Nathan Nicholson, who is under indictment for promotion prostitution in an unrelated case to which he has pleaded not guilty.

The woman says Myrelle informed her she was expected to engage in sex for money. She managed to escape by climbing over a fence.

“I just wanted to go home,” the woman told a reporter after Myrelle was arrested. “It wasn’t just me I was worried about; I’m pregnant.”

She added, “Don’t believe everything people say on social media.”

Tyrelle appears to have taken a more forthright approach. He allegedly targeted younger girls with a Facebook account he called Rico Finally Paid, describing his past employment as “pimpin.’” He posted photos of himself with large sums of cash as well as handguns.

“COME MAKE MONEY WITH ME,” one caption read.

An FBI criminal complaint unsealed last week recounts chats Tyrelle allegedly had with a number of underage girls, including one who is identified only as Individual I.

Rico Finally Paid: I want you to come get on this $$$ with me

Individual I:

Rico Finally Paid: Escorting boo.

Individual I: Wat wuld i have to do

Rico Finally Paid: Sex

Individual I: Naw I pass

Another girl was identified in the complaint as Individual J.

Rico Finally Paid: hey sexy how you doing im rico…i just wanna say you sexy and I will love for you to come get this money with me i see a lot of potential in you

Individual J: Haha that’s nice

Rico Finally Paid: im serious its all up to you

Individual J: How exactly do you get money lbvs! [laughing but very serious].

Rico Finally Paid: im a pimp boo

Individual J: Oh

Rico Finally Paid: fwm [believed to be an acronym for “fuck with me”] boo and get this money with me

And then there was a chart with Individual K.:

Rico Finally Paid: have you ever did escorting?

Individual K: Escorting what?

Rico Finally Paid: adult service were you have sex with older men but everything is safe and protected…im looking for a girl who down in ready to get this easy as money.

Individual K: No I haven’t done escorting and I’m 16

Rico Finally Paid: its easy fast money and im welling to spoil you to def . im just looking for my down ass girl who ready to get rich like her nigga

Individual K: How old are you?

Rico Finally Paid: 21

Individual K: Honestly I don’t see myself doing that shit it’s not meh but I’ll, let you know if I change my mind…

Rico Finally Paid: well take time to think about ok boo. but i like your picturs

Tyrelle was allegedly able to snare a number of other girls. One, identified in the complaint as Minor C from Muncie, Indiana, was just 14.

“[Tyrelle] told Minor C that Minor C could call him, ‘Daddy,’” the complaint states.

As recounted in the complaint, Minor C and a girl identified as Minor B were lured by the promise of quick cash. Tyrelle allegedly picked them up at a mall in Muncie and drove them to a Chicago-area hotel. Sexually suggestive cellphone photos of them were posted as part of an ad on the website Backpage, which has origins in the Village Voice and is now considered by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to be a major facilitator for prostitution.

“A short time after [Tyrelle] placed the ad on the website service, Minors B and C received a call for a service,” the complaint says. “Before the clients arrived, [Tyrelle] instructed Minors B and C that they should get the client’s money, count it and put it away.”

In a little over a week, Minor C collected some $3,000 from clients. Tyrelle is said to have pocketed every penny. But Minor C was far from home with no money of her own. She might have just kept on had an undercover cop with the Cook County’s Sheriff’s Office working with the FBI not arrested Tyrelle.

One of the girls, identified in the complaint as CW-1, agreed to become a witness against Tyrelle. The complaint says she reported Tyrelle had slapped and choked her, telling her, “You’re mine,” and “You’re not going anywhere.” She also recounted two other prostitutes telling her that Tyrelle “gave” them to his father.

Tyrelle went back to jail, where he remains pending a court appearance. He is expected to plead not guilty, as his twin has in the state case. The federal complaint against Tyrelle reports that in one Facebook status, he wrote of the joys of “trapping,” or running prostitutes.

“I LOVE trapping on the weekends. #$Money Making Mission.”

The complaint also describes a Facebook photo of Tyrelle handling what the FBI describes as a “pimp cane…used to control victims of sex trafficking through beatings and intimidation,” a suggestion the digital age has not changed the barbaric fundamentals what is most likely the one profession older than prostitution. The caption under the photo read:

“I see why yo bitch choose me #Chosen 1”

He seems to have seen no contradiction in changing his profile photo in April to one of him holding a newborn baby. A sonogram pic is in the same album as him brandishing a handgun.

Tyrelle is due in court on Friday, the smartphone not having made him even a mini bit smarter.

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UPDATE: CEO pleads guilty in prostitution, money-laundering case

The CEO and co-founder of has pleaded guilty to charges of facilitating prostitution and money laundering, the Department of Justice announced on Thursday, nearly a week after seizing the controversial classified site. 

Carl Ferrer, 57, of Frisco, Texas, could spend up to five years in prison or pay a maximum fine of $250,000, according to the plea agreement, which requires him to cooperate with the government in shutting down the site.

The announcement of Ferrer's plea comes three days after the government unsealed a sweeping federal indictment against Ferrer's former co-workers. In that indictment, Backpage co-founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin, as well as five other executives, face 93 charges involving facilitating prostitution through the Backpage site and money laundering.

In 2007, while still executives at New Times, Lacey and Larkin were both arrested for publishing an article they asserted exposed constitutional violations by the then-county sheriff and prosecutor.

The story detailed a grand jury subpoena that asked for sweeping information about readers of the tabloid’s website, particularly those who had read articles critical of then-Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The two were arrested on suspicion of violating the secrecy of grand jury matters. But the charges were dropped within days.

Lacey, in an interview following that 2007 arrest, said a fellow inmate in a holding cell asked him what why he was in jail. Lacey said he told him, “Writing.”

In a plea agreement signed April 5 — one day before the Backpage seizure — Ferrer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to facilitate prostitution using a facility in interstate or foreign commerce and to engage in money laundering.

A DOJ press release said several Backpage-related corporate entities, including LLC, have entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to engage in money laundering.

Ferrer’s plea agreement requires him to take "all steps within his power" to shutter the Backpage website and to provide technical assistance to government to do so.

"If the defendant fails to take all steps within his power to immediately shut down the website, this plea agreement shall be null and void and the United states shall be free to prosecute the defendant for all crimes of which it then has knowledge," the plea agreement reads.

In a press statement, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions praised the seizure of Backpage.

“For far too long, existed as the dominant marketplace for illicit commercial sex, a place where sex traffickers frequently advertised children and adults alike,” he said. “But this illegality stops right now." 


Pimps of Backpage

By Christopher R Rice CEO arrested in Texas on pimping charges
By Josh Gerstein Politico CEO Carl Ferrer, who has been locked in a heated contempt battle with a Senate panel probing his site's alleged facilitation of child prostitution and sex trafficking, was arrested in Texas Thursday on criminal pimping charges.

Ferrer, 55, had just flown into George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, from Amsterdam when he was taken into custody on the California warrant, according to a statement from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Ferrer was arrested on a 10-count complaint charging him with pimping conspiracy, pimping, pimping of a minor and attempted pimping of a minor—all stemming from his operation of the Backpage website.


Backpage CEO to appear in Houston court on prostitution bust
By Andrea Zelinski Chron

AUSTIN — The CEO of is scheduled to appear in a Houston courtroom Friday a day after he was arrested at Bush Intercontinental Airport on pimping charges in an attempt to crack down on human trafficking, state officials said on Thursday.

Law enforcement apprehended Carl Ferrer, 55, after his flight from Amsterdam landed at the airport on Thursday afternoon. He was taken into custody on a California arrest warrant that included a 10-count complaint accusing him of pimping conspiracy, pimping a minor, and attempted pimping of a minor.

Ferrer is scheduled to appear in Harris County County Criminal Court at Law Nov. 10. A Texas search warrant affidavit accuses the chief executive of of engaging in money laundering while operating the adult classified ad portal.


The Latest: Backpage attorney blasts raid, CEO's arrest

The attorney for is blasting the raid on the online classified ad portal's Dallas headquarters and the arrest of chief executive Carl Ferrer as "an election year stunt" on the part of the California attorney general and "not a good-faith action by law enforcement."

In a statement issued Friday, Backpage general counsel Liz McDougall said "the actions of the California and Texas attorneys general are flatly illegal" and "ignore the holdings of numerous federal courts that the First Amendment protects the ads on"
She also said the actions violate a federal law that she says pre-empts state actions such as these and immunizes web hosts of third-party-created content.


Search warrants and other documents show that California officials conducted an extensive investigation into Backpage beginning in 2013, including obtaining company email records from Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit. Texas officials obtained a warrant to search Backpage’s Dallas headquarters and appear to be considering state money-laundering charges.


California judge allows bail for operators
By Don Thompson

Backpage attorney Liz McDougall said the site’s chief executive, Carl Ferrer, 55, would post $500,000 bail. Ferrer is charged with pimping a minor, pimping and conspiracy to commit pimping.
The former owners of the Village Voice in New York City, Michael Lacey, 68, and James Larkin, 67, would post $250,000 each, she said. They are charged with conspiracy to commit pimping. The Arizona men, who also once owned the Phoenix New Times alternative weekly, are Backpage’s controlling shareholders, according to state authorities.

McDougall and other attorneys representing the three men declined comment.

The attorney general’s office did not oppose allowing the three to post bail, said spokeswoman Kristin Ford, nor has it attempted to freeze the website’s assets or shut it down.


Judge Drops Pimping Charges Against CEO
By Tony Lewis

A California judge threw out pimping charges against Carl Ferrer and two other former owners of the site.

Those who manage the website have said it reports any potential trafficking cases to law enforcement.

Ultimately the owners of the website were shielded by the federal communications decency act which grants immunity to website operators for content posted by users. The Sacramento County judge, therefore, threw out the charges explaining that it was an issue for congress to revisit.


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