Ballwin, Mo – Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO-02) released the below statement following news of the arrest of Backpage.com’s CEO on felony charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping:
“Three years ago, when I first arrived in Congress, we set our sights on Backpage.com and other marketers of the sex trafficking industry. We passed my legislation, the Stop Advertising Victims of Exploitation (SAVE) Act last year with the goal to shut down marketplaces just like Backpage.com.
“The arrest of the Backpage.com CEO is a great start, but there is so much more to be done. That’s why all week I have met with dozens of law enforcement officials, hospital and medical personnel, victim and survivor advocates, and visited safe houses in the St. Louis area to see what more we can do to end the scourge of modern day slavery in our own neighborhoods. This arrest marks the first step to permanently shutting down predators such as Backpage.com, and I encourage prosecutors to continue to use all of the tools at their disposal, including the SAVE Act. Let’s cheer this victory, yet resolve to do more and fight for these women, men and children who are still being victimized today.”
Summary of the SAVE Act:
Backpage.com Raided, CEO Arrested for Sex-Trafficking¸ Associated Press
State agents raided the Dallas headquarters of adult classified ad portal Backpage and arrested Chief Executive Officer Carl Ferrer on Thursday following allegations that adult and child sex-trafficking victims had been forced into prostitution through escort ads posted on the site.
Ferrer, 55, was arrested on a California warrant after arriving at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport on a flight from Amsterdam.
"Making money off the backs of innocent human beings by allowing them to be exploited for modern-day slavery is not acceptable in Texas," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said in a statement.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris said that Ferrer was arrested on felony charges of pimping a minor, pimping, and conspiracy to commit pimping. He is being held in lieu of $500,000 bond and will face an extradition hearing before he can be returned to California.
"Raking in millions of dollars from the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable victims is outrageous, despicable and illegal," said Harris, a Democrat who is running for the U.S. Senate in next month's election. "Backpage and its executives purposefully and unlawfully designed Backpage to be the world's top online brothel."
An attorney representing Backpage, Liz McDougall, did not immediately respond to telephone and email messages left by The Associated Press.
The site's controlling shareholders, Michael Lacey, 68, and James Larkin, 67, have been charged with conspiracy to commit pimping, Harris said in a statement. Neither of them has been taken into custody by late Thursday although warrants have been issued for their arrest. Under California's law, felony pimping is defined as making money off of prostitutes or soliciting customers for prostitution.
Lacey and Larkin are former owners of the Village Voice and the Phoenix New Times. An attorney who previously represented the two men, Michael Manning, did not immediately respond to a telephone message from The AP.
Backpage advertises a wide range of services, but the California arrest warrant alleges that internal business records obtained through a search warrant show that 99 percent its revenue came from its adult services section between January 2013 and March 2015. California officials said the site collects fees from users who use coded language and nearly nude photos to offer sex for money.
Worldwide revenue from sex ads topped $3.1 million in just one week last year, according to a court affidavit. It says Ferrer expanded Backpage's share of online sex marketing by creating affiliated sites including EvilEmpire.com and BigCity.com with related content.
The site operates in hundreds of cities worldwide, authorities said, including more than 30 in California. It collected $2.5 million per month just from California, or more than $51 million during the 29 months covered by the internal revenue reports.
Larkin and Lacey each received $10 million bonuses from the website in September 2014, according to the court filing. It says Backpage was created in 2004, but since 2014 has been owned by a Netherlands-based company that has Ferrer as its only named partner.
California authorities said the state's three-year investigation found many of the ads include victims of sex trafficking including children under the age of 18.
One of the advertisers, identified only as 15-year-old "E.S.," ''was forced into prostitution at the age of 13 by her pimp," according to an affidavit filed with the complaint. She used other online advertising services until they were shut down, the court filing says, when she turned to Backpage.
"I mean really, coming from someone my age, there is too much access, like it's too easy for people to get on it and post an ad," she told California Special Agent Brian Fichtner, according to his affidavit.
California officials said their investigation was prompted in part by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which reported 2,900 instances to California authorities since 2012 when suspected child sex trafficking occurred using Backpage.
The criminal complaint includes allegations that five minors, three of them including "E.S." under age 16, paid to post advertisements on Backpage.
The charges against Ferrer could bring him nearly 22 years in prison, while Larkin and Lacey face a maximum six years.
Ballwin, Mo – Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO-02) released the below statement following news of the loss of St. Louis County Police Officer Blake Snyder:
“I am deeply heartbroken over the loss of Officer Blake Snyder of the St. Louis County Police Department. He was a true hero, who selflessly put his own life on the line to protect our families. Officer Snyder accepted a calling to serve a cause greater than himself, putting on his uniform every day with pure devotion, optimism and a willingness to do everything in his power to keep our neighborhoods safe. We can never repay the family of Officer Snyder for his sacrifice, but through prayer and faith, I know our community will come together to support his wife and 2 year old son during this tragic time. I ask that you join me in continuing to pray for Officer Snyder’s family and all law enforcement in the greater St. Louis area.”Read More
WASHINGTON - Today, during a full House Financial Services Committee hearing, Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO-02) questioned John Stumpf, the Chairman and CEO of Wells Fargo, on the appalling actions taken by employees at the company who opened more than 2 million fraudulent customer accounts.
“Placing one's money and wealth in the custody of an organization like Wells Fargo is one of the biggest displays of public trust. And you sir, and your company, have betrayed that trust and taken advantage of consumers in order to meet sales performance goals and fraudulently improve earnings and share prices,” the Congresswoman said during the hearing. “This is wrong. This is immoral. This may even be criminal.”
During Congresswoman Wagner’s questioning, Mr. Stumpf admitted that more than 1,100 of these fraudulent accounts were created in Missouri. Watch the Congresswoman’s full line of questioning here:Read More
Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO), along with Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rob Portman (R-OH), today introduced new bipartisan legislation, the Trafficking Survivors Relief Act of 2016, which would clear criminal records of victims of human trafficking. This bill would apply to non-violent crimes committed by individuals as a direct result of human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a modern day form of slavery affecting millions in the United States and abroad. This crime involves either the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit a person for labor or commercial sex, or the exploitation of a minor for commercial sex. As a result of being trafficked, victims are commonly charged with crimes such as conspiracy, money laundering, drug trafficking, and related offenses that then follow them throughout the duration of their lives. These charges make it difficult for human trafficking victims to find jobs and housing, leaving them vulnerable to being exploited and trafficked again.
“We have a moral obligation to protect survivors of trafficking who were arrested or convicted for offenses that they were forced to commit,” said Congresswoman Ann Wagner. “No victims of trafficking should be criminalized for the horrific exploitation they have endured. I am proud that with this legislation we are giving survivors a fresh start and an opportunity to recover from trauma, social stigma, and discrimination.”
“Tens of thousands of men, women, and children are victims of human trafficking each year. Too often, they are charged as criminals, thrown in prison, and trailed by a criminal history the rest of their lives instead of getting the care and help they need. The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act will empower human trafficking victims to escape the chains of their past and move forward with their lives,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
“We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to take care of human trafficking survivors who manage to escape from captivity,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “In many cases, when trafficked people – including children – are forced into slavery, they are tagged with criminal charges that stay with them for the rest of their lives, even though they have absolutely no freedom to say no to their captors, who force them to commit crimes. I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation to clear non-violent criminal convictions of trafficking victims who were forced to break the law while in captivity. We all have a responsibility to take care of the most vulnerable Americans.”
“Thousands of innocent women and girls have been victimized by human traffickers across our country. I’ve met with a number of brave survivors in Ohio who have told me that after they were forced into sex and raped by strangers, they were charged with prostitution. I think that’s outrageous. They’re not criminals; they’re victims, and these charges come at a time when they are suffering. It’s time to stop punishing these victims and instead help them get their lives back,” said Senator Rob Portman.
The Trafficking Survivors Relief Act of 2016 would require victims to provide supporting documentation in order to get their non-violent criminal records vacated. These documents can include the following:
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO-02) attended a classified briefing held by representatives of the U.S. Departments of State, Justice and Treasury following the Obama Administration’s inability to publicly answer Congressional questions in regard to the recent ransom deal with Iran. After the classified briefing, Congresswoman Wagner released the following statement:
“After a near two-hour classified briefing, I am more certain than ever that the Obama Administration paid a cash ransom to Iran for the release of American hostages. This was a negotiated deal where our leaders caved to the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, despite a long-standing national policy to never pay ransom for hostages. The Administration engaged in a reckless transaction, which sets a dangerous precedent for the future of our country, further weakens relations with our allies, emboldens our enemies, and most importantly, puts American lives in danger around the world.”
Congresswoman Wagner recently questioned officials from the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and Treasury during a Financial Services Committee Oversight and Investigations hearing focused on the Obama Administration’s deal with Iran.
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO-02) released the following statement after the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Prohibiting Future Ransom Payments to Iran Act, with a 254-163 vote:
“Americans, including myself, are outraged that the Obama Administration paid a $1.7 billion ransom payment in unmarked bills to Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and this Administration carelessly gave them cash that has been reportedly transferred to the Iranian military, funding Hezbollah and other terrorist proxies. This vote tonight will prevent such reckless and unimaginable payments in the future by the United States government.”
Congresswoman Wagner recently questioned officials from the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and Treasury during a Financial Services Committee Oversight and Investigations hearing focused on the Obama Administration’s deal with Iran. Congresswoman Wagner asked for a classified briefing, saying that the American people deserve more clarity on unknown details related to the ransom payment.
Watch the hearing clip here:
For Immediate Release
WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO-02) awarded the St. Louis-based Christian Family Services (CFS) with the 2016 Angels in Adoption Award, recognizing the organization for its extraordinary contribution on behalf of children in need of families. CFS provides adoptive care for children, crisis pregnancy counseling, and counseling for families, couples and individuals.
“Christian Family Services earned this prestigious award through their hard work and dedication to the children and families within the greater St. Louis metropolitan region,” said Congresswoman Wagner. “A leading organization dedicated to helping children find homes, while also offering crisis pregnancy and family counseling, Christian Family Services is an incredible asset to our community, and we are delighted to recognize their service with this award.”
For the past 18 years the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) has hosted the Angels in Adoption® Program to celebrate individuals, couples, and organizations from across the nation who have made an extraordinary contribution on behalf of children in need of families.
Christian Family Services has been located in Webster Groves for 43 years, and their mission is to “find homes for children and help families find solutions.”
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Wagner (R-MO-02) questioned officials from the U.S. Departments of State, Justice, and Treasury during an Oversight and Investigations hearing focused on the Obama Administration’s deal with Iran and whether its cash payments to the Iranian government constitute a ransom.
After the hearing, Congresswoman Wagner released the following statement:
“After today’s hearing, it is becoming even more clear that the Obama Administration lied to the American people and sent a cargo plane loaded with $400 million in cash to pay Iran for the release of American hostages and subsequently sent an additional $1.3 billion in cash following the release of the hostages. To believe anything else is inconceivable.
“The Administration on multiple occasions has said they have held up this payment to ensure all of the hostages were on a plane leaving Iran before releasing the cash. While the Administration calls this payment leverage, I call it ransom. Without assurances, they gave Iran a total of $1.7 billion in cash that has reportedly gone into their military budget and perhaps even funded terrorism. While President Obama would like to hide the details behind classified briefings, Congress will get the American people the answers they deserve.”
Watch the hearing clip here:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Accelerating Access to Capital Act (HR 2357), sponsored by Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO-02), with a 236-178 vote. The Accelerating Access to Capital Act amends the Securities Exchange Commission’s registration process for additional capital, reducing this regulatory burden on small companies and allowing them to allocate more resources toward growth and job creation.
“I am thrilled we are continuing to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens on American companies. This legislation will allow small businesses to expand, create jobs, and better compete in the marketplace,” said Congresswoman Wagner. “I talk with small business owners across Missouri’s Second District every day, and it is clear that big government regulations continue to suffocate our businesses and families. We must provide opportunities to restore access to capital that the Obama Administration has spent years trying to block.”
Fuel Performance Solutions, a small business in St. Louis, conducted an internal study and found that instead of filling out a 100-page registration form, which takes about 4-6 weeks to complete, this legislation will allow them to fill out a 20-page form, which only takes 2 days to complete. As a result, they would incur less legal, accounting, and investment banking fees and save $225,000.
Earlier today, Congresswoman Wagner spoke on the positive impact this legislation will have on businesses across the country. Watch her floor speech here:
Congresswoman Wagner’s Floor Remarks, as prepared:
Thank you Mr. Speaker, I’m proud to sponsor the Accelerating Access to Capital Act, HR 2357, and I would like to thank my colleagues Rep. Emmer and Chairman Garrett for their legislation as well. Regulatory burden is one of the reasons why we are still in the slowest recovery of our lifetime since the financial crisis, and small businesses are finding it more and more difficult to find financing in order to grow and expand their business.
Dodd-Frank has made traditional bank lending for small businesses more scarce, and smaller companies that wish to go to the capital markets, are finding the compliance and regulatory requirements to be too extensive and costly.
This legislation builds upon other efforts by this committee to provide simplified disclosure and reduce burdens for smaller companies in order to lower the cost of raising capital.
Specifically, this would extend to smaller reporting companies the ability to utilize Form S-3, a much more simplified registration for companies that have already met prior reporting requirements with the SEC. Allowing small companies to use this form would provide significant benefits with its shorter length, allowing forward incorporation by reference, and the ability to offer securities “off the shelf,” which are all things that larger companies are currently able to enjoy.
Streamlining disclosure will lower compliance costs associated with filing redundant paperwork, which will in turn allow companies to direct more resources to growing their business.
Fuel Performance Solutions, which is a company based out of St. Louis, has spent the past 10 years working on exciting fuel products that could potentially save Americans money at the pump and reduce harmful emissions.
In order to fund this research in breakthrough technology, Fuel Performance Solutions eventually decided to register with the SEC and go public to raise more capital and expand their business.
The company conducted a study and found that instead of filling out a 100-page registration form, which takes about 4-6 weeks to complete, this legislation would have allowed them to fill out a 20-page form, which only takes 2 days to complete. As a result, they would have incurred less legal, accounting, and investment banking fees and saved close to $225,000.
Additionally, under this job growth legislation, they could have received SEC approval in days, rather than months, and thereby obtained certainty in regards to funding their business.
I am proud that the greater metropolitan St. Louis region is the fastest-growing start-up scene in the country, but we must provide opportunities for these businesses and many others to grow and thrive in the marketplace.
Extending these cost saving provisions to smaller companies that large companies are currently able to enjoy is absolutely critical and can make the difference in their ability to issue an additional offering, expand their business, and create more jobs. The Accelerating Access to Capital Act will do just that.
I urge passage of this legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.
For Immediate Release
Contact:Meghan Burris | (202) 225-1621
BALLWIN, MO – Today, Congresswoman Ann Wagner (R-MO-02) released the following statement after the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law in the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt:
“I am shocked by the Supreme Court’s failure today to protect the lives of this nation’s unborn children and their mothers. I cannot understand the logic employed by the court in overturning a commonsense Texas law that protects women’s health. As a legislator, but more importantly as a woman and mother, I believe that our courts must consider the consequences for women’s health of negligent standards of care at abortion clinics that do not meet the minimum standards for ambulatory surgical centers. This is why I signed onto an amicus brief supporting the state of Texas in this case. I will continue to fight for improved women’s health and to protect the life of our innocent unborn children.”
435 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Ann Wagner’s career is both deep and broad in service to her hometown, state and nation with over 25 years of work in the private sector, community and public service, and the political arena.
The 2nd District means family for Ann. It is where she and her husband of twenty-five years, Ray, grew up, went to school, raised their children, work, volunteer and go to church. This community has given her extraordinary opportunities to make a difference.
At an early age, Ann started working in the family business, a retail carpet store called Carpetime in Manchester. Working beside her parents she learned the value of a dollar, a strong work ethic, honesty, integrity, and that government ought not be in the way and on the backs of hard-working Americans trying to make a living.
Ann then took her firsthand experience to the University of Missouri-Columbia and received her BSBA from the Business School with an emphasis in Logistics. After college, Ann went to work in the private sector and held management positions at Hallmark Cards in Kansas City and Ralston Purina in St. Louis.
Ann’s most important jobs, however, have always been as a wife and mother. Ann and Ray have three children: Raymond, a recent West Point graduate stationed at Fort Campbell with the 101st Airborne; Stephen, a Client Services Manager for a St. Louis area financial management company; and Mary Ruth, a freshmen at Miami University in Ohio.
Ann Wagner’s public service began at the grassroots level. She served for nine years as a local committeewoman in Lafayette Township and went on to Chair the Missouri Republican Party delivering historic Republican gains. She also served as Co-Chairman of the Republican National Committee during the first term of President George W. Bush.
In 2005, following nomination by President Bush and confirmation by the U.S. Senate, Ann was sworn in as the 19th U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. She served as U.S. Ambassador for four years before returning to her home in Ballwin, Missouri.
In 2010, Ann was asked to serve as the Chairman of Roy Blunt’s successful U.S. Senate campaign in Missouri. Bringing her high energy and political skills to the campaign, Ann helped unite existing and new conservative grassroots activists to produce a landslide victory.
Ann announced her first run for public office on April 26, 2011 and has attended hundreds of events including forums, debates, picnics, meetings and rallies. Her signature grassroots “Table Tops” have been a listening and learning tour in homes all across the district. Her strong connection to her community has helped Ann recruit hundreds of volunteers from every corner of the 2nd Congressional District.
Ann won her 2012 Congressional race with over 60% of the vote and received more votes than any other Republican candidate for Congress in the State of Missouri this cycle.
Ann will serve on the House Financial Services Committee – a key committee for the 2nd District and St. Louis region. St. Louis and its suburbs are national and regional centers for financial services activity. Over 84,000 people in St. Louis and its suburbs are employed in the financial services industry with a total payroll of around $4.57 billion.
The St. Louis area is also home to national investment firms including Edward Jones, Scottrade, Stifel Financial and Wells Fargo Advisors, to name a few, making it one of the largest clusters of brokerage firms and personnel outside of New York.
Ann was also selected by the Freshman Class of the 113th Congress to be their representative on the Elected Leadership Committee.
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I'm thankful that the wounded @stlcountypd Officer in North County is out of the hospital. Please join me in prayer for a fast recovery.