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PHOENIX — A founder of a year-old alternative weekly newspaper in Phoenix has been charged in the apparent culmination of a federal human-trafficking investigation. Michael Lacey, 69, of Sedona, Ariz. Lacey also co-founded the online classified advertising site Back, and authorities had spent months probing whether the website served as a willing participant in the online sale of sex, including with underage girls. Lacey, former editor of New Times , and Jim Larkin, the former publisher, were arrested in October on California charges that they had profited from prostitution activities through Back.

A judge there threw out charges that the pair and Back Chief Executive Carl Ferrer conspired to engage in pimping. Friday's charges are only the latest in a list of legal troubles for Lacey and also perhaps for Larkin, whose Paradise Valley, Ariz. Before Back, launched in , both men had built a chain of alternative weeklies across the USA with a mixture of arts coverage and investigations.

In , the men sold all the newspapers to the chain's editors and publishers. In interviews at the time, Lacey said he did so to shield the journalism from the furor over Back. They began Back as an alternative to Craigslist, and it became the second most popular online classified site in the U. Its problems didn't stem from the pets for sale section, but the personal — what a Senate subcommittee last year considered as people for sale, knowingly aiding in prostitution and child sex trafficking.

Craigslist restricted and then closed its erotic services section in Back considered that move an economic opportunity. Back shut down its adult section in January , the same day Lacey, Larkin and other Back executives were called to testify at that Senate subcommittee hearing. The men refused to answer any questions then. The types of that had appeared in the adult section of Back, including racy photos, migrated to the singles section.

In recent weeks, in response to a federal law that holds websites able for knowingly facilitating human trafficking, the were restricted to a phone , photos and links to other websites. Married white men, Minnesota study says. Cindy McCain, wife of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. She said she and other advocates had worked for years to get Back to change its business model, but the company consistently refused.

Liz McDougall, a lawyer for Back, said Friday evening that she could not comment on the day's events. Lacey and Larkin have also not responded to interview requests from The Arizona Republic. For years, as advocates criticized the website as a forum for prostitution , lawyers representing Lacey, Larkin and Back, asserted that the site merely hosted others wrote and was responsible for neither the content nor consequences. Lawyers for the website further argued that Back cooperated with law enforcement and took steps to curb sex trafficking from being conducted through the site.

Federal authorities pointed to internal e-mails they said showed that website actively edited with the intention of masking that illegal activity, not preventing it. Back employed an automated system that screened out words possibly indicative of illegal activity, rather than passing that information on to law enforcement, investigators concluded.

The business was lucrative. The adult were among the few Back charged users to post. Senate report.

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Attorney's Office here unsealed indictments Monday against seven people associated with Back, officially charging that the classified advertising website operated as a thinly veiled and lucrative online brothel. Among the two named in the count indictment are the co-founders of Back, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.

They ly had been the editor and publisher, respectively, of New Times , a Phoenix alternative weekly newspaper that grew large enough to buy out Village Voice Media in New York City. The indictment charged the pair, along with others, of conspiring to knowingly facilitate prostitution offenses through the website.

Authorities contend some of the trafficked people included teenage girls. Back long had defended the posting of its escort , saying it was not responsible for the consequences of others had created. It also said its website provided a tool for law enforcement to find and rescue exploited women and girls. The indictment instead said Back only wanted to create the perception that it was attempting to stop the selling of children for sex.

The sometimes were written in a code that law enforcement and activists deciphered and customers seemingly understood.