CityXGuide owner sentenced to over 8 years in prison for reckless disregard of sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracy | USAO-NDTX

The owner of CityXGuide.com – a leading online ad source for victims of sex trafficking – was today sentenced to more than eight years in federal prison and the forfeiture of more than $15 million assets, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas said. E. Meacham.

Wilhan Martono, 48, was arrested on June 19, 2020, the same day CityXGuide and its sister websites were seized by Homeland Security Investigations.

He pleaded guilty on August 24, 2021 to one count of promoting prostitution and recklessly disregarding sex trafficking and one count of conspiring to engage in interstate transportation for the benefit of racketeering businesses – facilitating prostitution. The plea was the first ever filed under the Empowering States and Victims to Combat Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), the 2018 law that allows the federal government to prosecute websites that facilitate sex trafficking.

He was sentenced to 97 months in federal prison on Monday by Chief U.S. District Judge David Godbey, who also ordered him to confiscate more than $15 million in assets, including more than $2 million in gold bullion. money and almost a million dollars in cryptocurrency.

“The owner of CityXGuide has intentionally ignored gross sexual abuse that has occurred on his platform. He has profited from the exploitation of vulnerable women and children, just like the traffickers who advertise it on his website,” said US Attorney Chad Meacham. “Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes we pursue. The Department of Justice and its partners will not rest until sites like this are taken down and their creators brought to justice.

“Thanks to the investigative efforts of our law enforcement partners at the North Texas Trafficking Task Force led by HSI Dallas, the largest digital marketplace for sex trafficking and prostitution no longer exists. “said Lester R. Hayes Jr., special agent in charge of Dallas Homeland Security Investigations. “The greed of this defendant and the trafficking of those who were exploited through the commercial sex websites he created cost him his freedom and the confiscation of the proceeds of crime he obtained by committing these crimes . HSI will not back down until those who conspire in these illegal activities are brought to justice.

“Today’s sentencing illustrates the Secret Service’s unwavering commitment to investigating financial crimes taking place in the ever-changing cyber realm,” said William Smarr, Secret Service Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Field Office. . “We are grateful for the tireless work of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners as we worked together to bring this matter to justice.”

According to court documents, Mr. Martono admitted to creating, owning and operating CityXGuide and a suite of related websites, including Backpage.co, CAPleasures.com and BodyRubShop.com, among others.

He registered the domain names of several of the sites on April 8, 2018, just a day after the federal government shut down Backpage.com, then the Internet’s main source of commercial sex advertisements. Like Backpage, Mr. Martono’s sites allowed users, including traffickers, to post hundreds of thousands of commercial sex advertisements worldwide.

In the plea documents, Mr. Martono admitted that he had turned a blind eye to the illegal sex trafficking occurring on CityXGuide.

Despite terms of service allegedly prohibiting the advertising of illegal sexual services, CityXGuide and its affiliate websites allowed brothels, pimps and prostitutes to post hundreds of thousands of advertisements for sexual services, which users could then filter by geography and preference. The sites allowed advertisers to choose from a pre-populated list of “intimate activities” and then add nude photos, descriptions, working hours, payment methods and contact details of the women being advertised. The advertisement. To ensure premium placement, the websites offered paid “upgrades” that could be purchased with Bitcoin or in exchange for gift cards from Walmart, Best Buy, Amazon and other retailers.

Mr. Martono then used CardCash, a third-party gift card reseller, to exchange those gift cards for US currency. He used a VPN to mask his IP address during these CardCash transactions, then routed the proceeds through a network of business and personal bank accounts.

Although he received numerous emails from federal, state and local law enforcement informing him that CityXGuide and its associated websites were being used to facilitate child sex trafficking and exploitation, he continued to exploit these locations in the United States and around the world.

In court documents, prosecutors estimated Mr. Martono withdrew more than $21 million from his websites, which users described as “picking up where Backpage left off.”

The North Texas Trafficking Task Force conducted the investigation, led by the Dallas Field Office of Homeland Security Investigations, the Dallas Field Office of the United States Secret Service and the Colleyville Police Department, with assistance from HSI’s field offices in El Paso and San Jose as well as the Texas Department of Public Safety. Assistant United States Attorneys John de la Garza, Sid Mody (fmr) and Rebekah Ricketts (fmr) prosecuted the case.

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