Owner Of Child Sex Trafficking And Prostitution Website That Replaced Arrested, Page Shut Down

(/AFP via Getty Images)

Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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The U.S. Attorney’s Office has shut down a website that replaced, the online epicenter of child sex trafficking that was seized by the Justice Department in 2018, a statement released Friday said.

The owner and operator of the site, Wilhan Martono, 46, was also arrested in Fremont, California on 28 federal counts, including sex trafficking, promoting prostitution, money laundering, and other related charges, the U.S. District Attorney’s Office statement says

Martono’s sites included and affiliated websites which advertised prostitution, child sex trafficking,and other illicit services. The site was allegedly created to take over “from where Backpage left off,” and court documents state that Martono had registered the domain name for several sites the day after the FBI seized

“As soon as DOJ shut down one despicable site, another popped up to take its place,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox in a statement. “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.”

Martono allegedly profited by more than $21 million off of his operations, and his websites allowing pimps, brothels and prostitutes to post hundreds of thousands of advertisements served clients across the globe. CityXGuide included a list of “favorite cities” which included Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, and Boston.

CityXGuide has since been replaced with a splash page after being seized by authorities.

This screen grab image obtained April 9, 2018 shows and affiliated websites that have been seized by the FBI in Washington,DC. (/AFP via Getty Images)

This screen grab image obtained April 9, 2018 shows and affiliated websites that have been seized by the FBI in Washington, DC. (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)

“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.”

Before other websites took its place, was the primary marketplace for buying and selling sex in the U.S. A study released to Reuters in 2019 showed that after the site was shuttered, U.S. demand for prostitutes dropped 67% and search volume plunged 90%. 

Days after authorities seized the site, President Donald Trump signed into law the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act and Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act.(RELATED: Backpage Pleads Guilty To Human Trafficking Five Days After Women’s March Endorsement)

An indictment summarized the experiences of 17 victims trafficked through the website, which included one victim who was killed by a customer met through an ad, and other victims who were trafficked as minors.

If convicted, Martono faces up to 25 years in federal prison.