The U.S. Department of Justice has shut down a major website for prostitution and sex trafficking and has indicted the owner.
CityXGuide.com was a leading source of online advertisements for prostitution and sex trafficking which served clients across the nation, including a list of 14 “Favorite Cities” such as Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and Boston. Law enforcement has identified numerous underage victims in CityXGuide advertisements, including a 13-year-old female who was recovered in November 2019.
The Justice Department announced a 28-charge indictment against Wilhan Martono, 46, the website’s owner. Among the charges are 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 counts of money laundering. Martono allegedly made $21 million off the website and tried concealing the online activity by routing traffic through a European IP address. He was arrested on June 17 in Fremont, California by Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Secret Service. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in federal prison.
Martono was charged in part under a new law, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017 (FOSTA), that targets online sex trafficking and subjects websites to federal criminal and civil liability when users facilitate prostitution. President Trump signed the law in 2018.
CityXGuide.com was launched in 2018 right after Backpage.com, the top online human trafficking site, was seized by the federal government two weeks after the U.S. House and Senate passed FOSTA. Since then, several other websites built solely around prostitution and sex trafficking have been taken down, such as Cityvibe, and mainstream websites like Craigslist and Reddit have removed their “Hookers” and “Personals” sections which hosted sex trafficking and prostitution advertisements.