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The charges against Ferrer could bring him nearly 22 years in prison, while Larkin and Lacey face a maximum six years. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Claire Mc Caskill, D-Missouri, chairman and ranking member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, issued a statement hailing the criminal charges resulting from what they called "the scourge of online sex trafficking." They put the site's estimated annual revenues at more than 0 million, calling it "a market leader in commercial sex advertising." ___ Thompson reported from Sacramento, Calif.

The criminal complaint includes allegations that five minors, three of them including "E.

S." under age 16, paid to post advertisements on 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 site operates in hundreds of cities worldwide, authorities said, including more than 30 in California.