Law enforcement details the underworld of online exchange sites

Officials said sites like backpage.com are adding to the problem of prostitution, like when a man tried to kidnap a woman earlier in the week.

ST. TAMMANY, La. --  Forty-one-year-old Christopher Garcie is now the face of an accused kidnapper and attempted cop assassin.

But the Kenner man's Tuesday night started out much more simple; answering an advertisement for escort services on exchange website Backpage.com.

"Similar to Craigslist, where you can sell and purchase items, but from our investigative work into Backpage.Com, it seems like it's used mostly for prostitution purposes," said St. Tammany Sheriff Randy Smith.

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Because of the discretion of a computer screen, compared to the days of doing business on busy street corners, Smith says websites like Backpage.com are behind what has become one of country's fastest growing criminal enterprises, which he says also comes with serious consequences.

"We've seen homicides, kidnapping, rape where these, mostly females, put themselves at risk by using these pages and meeting someone for either Moen or not, but to meet up with somebody that they don't know," Smith.

That's what happened in Lacombe Tuesday night when authorities say Garcie kidnapped the woman he met at this construction site he was working at.  She was able to escape in Mandeville and called 911.  Causeway Police later spotted Garcie's vehicle, but authorities say he led multiple agencies on a 45 minute pursuit that ended with a crash and shootout in Avondale.

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On Thursday, Amite Police Officer Grant Carruth was found guilty of rape and kidnapping for contacting two women on Backpage.com in 2014 and threatening to arrest them if they didn't have sex with him.

Those dangers are why authorities are using the same sites to cut down on online prostitution, and combat human trafficking, which is often behind the operations.

"We have to continue to go and not only monitor these sites, but follow-up on these type of cases to prevent these crimes from happening," said Smith.

If you're using exchange sites for legal purchases, police suggest you meet in public places or police stations for your protection.

(© 2016 WWL)


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