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Dallas (US), Jun 19 (Canadian-Media): Wilhan Martono, 46, was charged in a 28-count federal indictment June 2 after his website CityXGuide.com, a leading source of online advertisements for prostitution and sex trafficking was seized by U.S. Department of Homeland Security, media reports said.
Homeland Security. Image credit: Twitter handle
An investigation was conducted by the special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) assigned to HSI Dallas.
Wilhan Martono was indicted on one count of promotion of prostitution and reckless disregard of sex trafficking, one count of interstate racketeering conspiracy (facilitating prostitution), nine counts of interstate transportation in aid of racketeering (facilitating prostitution), and 17 count s of money laundering.
On June 17, HSI and U.S. Secret Service agents arrested him in Fremont, California.
Shortly after the defendant's arrest, CityXGuide was replaced with a splash page notifying users that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had seized the website pursuant to a warrant.
According to the indictment, Martono allegedly netted more than $21 million from illicit websites promoting prostitution and sex trafficking. He allegedly registered the domain names for several of the sites just one day after the FBI shut down Backpage.com, then the Internet's leading source of prostitution and sex trafficking advertisements.
Martono allegedly concealed his online activity by routing website traffic through an IP address in Europe, using a VPN to mask his IP address while conducting CardCash transactions, and funneling his proceeds through a network of business and personal bank accounts. DHS seized millions of dollars from Martono accounts at the time of his arrest.
CityXGuide, which served clients across the globe, included a list of 14 "Favorite Cities," including Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and Boston.
Numerous minor victims in CityXGuide advertisements had been identified by Law enforcement, including a 13-year-old Jane Doe rescued in North Texas in November 2019.
"This case is a harsh reminder of the ruthlessness of human traffickers and lengths to which they go, including victimizing women and children, to make a profit," said Ryan L. Spradlin, special agent in charge of HSI Dallas. "HSI maintains its unwavering commitment to investigate these heinous crimes, rescue victims, and prosecute the offenders to the fullest extent of the law."
If convicted, Martono faces up to 25 years in federal prison.
Martono was charged in part under FOSTA, a law passed in the wake of the Backpage scandal in April 2018 that allows the federal government to prosecute websites that facilitate sex trafficking.
The case is being prosecuted by assistant US Attorneys Sid Mody, Rebekah Ricketts and John de la Garza.