Michael Lacey, Scott Spear and John Brunst, all men in their 70s, created complicated system to try to outwit US government

Three former owners of the website Backpage, a site mainly known as a place where sex workers advertise their services, have been convicted for federal crimes including promoting prostitution and money laundering, the US Department of Justice announced on Friday.

The recently convicted trio, Michael Lacey, 75, Scott Spear, 72, and John “Jed” Brunst, 71, came to own Backpage in 2010. Since then, the government says, they encouraged sex work ads by creating a system for “johns”, or customers, to leave reviews about the sex workers they had engaged with. Website workers and an automated system filtered out words that made it obvious that sex was being offered in exchange for money.

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