DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The U.S. Attorney’s Office has shut down a website known as “a leading source of online advertisements for prostitution and sex trafficking” and charged its owner.
The website CityXGuide.com was described by users as “taking over from where Backpage left off.”
Wilhan Martono, 46, was charged in a 28-count federal indictment on June 2.
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).
Seventeen counts of money laundering.
Martono was arrested on Wednesday June 17 in Fremont, California by Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Secret Service.
Shortly after the defendant’s arrest, CityXGuide was replaced with a splash page notifying users that the website had been seized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security pursuant to a warrant:
According to the indictment, Martono allegedly netted more than $21 million off a suite of 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.
CityXGuide and its companion websites allegedly allowed advertisers to select from a pre-populated list of “intimate activities,” then add nude photographs, descriptions, work hours, methods of payment, and contact information for the women being advertised.
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.
Law enforcement has identified numerous minor victims in CityXGuide advertisements, including a 13-year-old Jane Doe recovered in North Texas in November 2019.
“As soon as DOJ shut down one despicable site, another popped up to take its place,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “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.”
If convicted, Martono faces up to 25 years in federal prison.