KANSAS CITY, Kansas - Two men have been charged in connection to an online sting investigation into a popular website and its adult services section.
Kansas Attorney General Steve Six announced the charges Wednesday at the Wyandotte County Courthouse.
"Ads soliciting sex, including prostitution and including likely human trafficking cases involving children, appear to be rampant on Backpage.com," Six said.
Charged are 27-year-old Spencer Lee Hoff, a from Liberty, Missouri and 31-year-old Steven Van Loenen of Merriam, Kansas.
"Last month, agents in my office placed ads on Backpage.com similar to those typically placed by human traffickers and others offering sex with underage girls," Six said.
Hoff was arrested less than 72 hours after the first ad was placed. He allegedly came to a location in Wyandotte County hoping to have sex with a 14-year-old girl, but instead met authorities.
Six said the same ad led to Van Loenen’s arrest on Oct. 9, when he came to another undisclosed location to meet the 14-year-old whom he thought had placed the ad.
"If it wasn't clear before, it should be now - ads placed on Backpage.com are being used on a daily basis to facilitate sex crimes against children," Six said. "Without immediate reforms by Backpage.com, more and more young girls are going to become victims."
At the news conference, Six renewed his call for Backpage.com to immediately remove its Adult Services section and to put in place strict manual review policies for ads posted in other sections.
Last month, Six was joined from the attorneys general of 20 other states – including Missouri – in making a public plea for Backpage to make those changes .
"On behalf of the 20 Attorneys General who I joined in a letter to Backpage.com, I once again call on the site to take down its Adult Services section and immediately implement stringent review standards to put a stop to these ads," Six said Wednesday. "We must stop the victimization of young girls immediately."
Six said he was “shocked” at the ease his agents had in finding and apprehending suspects willing to engage in illegal sexual activity with minors.
“If agents from the Attorney General's office are solicited this quickly,” Six said, “Imagine how easy it is for pimps and traffickers to solicit sex.”
Hoff was charged in Wyandotte County with electronic solicitation and attempted aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Van Loenen was transported to Shawnee County and charged with electronic solicitation. His case will be handled by Six’s office.
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