A handful of prostitution websites have been shut down and their owner arrested after he raked in $21 million facilitating the trafficking of women and underage girls.
According to the Daily Republic, Bay Area man Wilhan Martono, 46, was arrested Wednesday in Fremont, California. As of Thursday, Martono was being held at the Santa Rita Jail where he awaited extradition by U.S. Marshals to Dallas, Texas. There, he will face 28 federal charges, including conspiracy, promotion and facilitation of prostitution, racketeering, and over a dozen money laundering charges.
If convicted, Martono faces up to 25 years in federal prison.
The website names included “CityXGuide” and “BodyRubShop” which have been described as picking up where the massive sex trafficking site Backpage left off after it was shuttered by the Department of Justice back in 2018.
The indictment claims that Martono’s websites not only trafficked adult prostitutes but also featured ads for “numerous child trafficking victims.” A press release from the Department of Justice states that “law enforcement has identified numerous minor victims in CityXGuide advertisements, including a 13-year-old Jane Doe recovered in North Texas in November 2019.”
The Daily Republic continues:
The indictment alleges that Martono first purchased a CityXGuide domain in 2004, but in 2018 — after the fall of Backpage — he expressed a desire to kick things into overdrive.
A month after Backpage was shut down, Martono allegedly purchased a domain called “New Backpage.” In January 2019, in an email exchange with a “promoter,” he expressed a desire to take over, “from where Backpage left off,” the indictment alleges.
The sites allowed users to search for sex workers in five continents and more than 14 cities in the United States, including San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Las Vegas, and San Diego, the indictment says. Users could pick from a range of services, everything from massage and “lunch dates” to a range of specific sexual acts.
Users were expected to pay electronically with Bitcoin or gift cards, which make it harder for authorities to track, the indictment alleges. The websites were set up with physical addresses listed in a Hong Kong apartment, and phone numbers that went back to a property management company there, prosecutors say.
“As soon as DOJ shut down one despicable site, another popped up to take its place,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox of Martonos’ websites. “Like the owners of Backpage, this defendant made millions facilitating the online exploitation of women and children. The Justice Department will not rest until these sites are eliminated and their owners held accountable for their crimes.”
“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 Homeland Security Investigations’ Dallas Field Office. “HSI maintains its unwavering commitment to investigate these heinous crimes, rescue victims, and prosecute the offenders to the fullest extent of the law.”
If you appreciate the work we are doing to fight the leftist assault on our values, please consider a small donation to help us continue. Thank you so much!