Wilhan Martono, the man who owned the adult classified ads website CityXGuide, has been arrested by federal authorities in the most high-profile multi-state legal action since the shuttering of Backpage.com in 2018.
Martono's arrest and the seizure of
CityXGuide by authorities is the first such raid since President Donald Trump signed the FOSTA/SESTA internet censorship package into law in April 2018.
The arrest follows aTexas indictment against Martono filed June 2 and includes 28 federal
charges, among them conspiracy, money laundering and promotion and facilitation of prostitution. The indictment links Martono to a network of adult-oriented websites like CityXGuide, BodyRubShop and variations on the name of the shuttered Backpage.com.
Prosecutors also claim that in January 2019 Martono sent an email expressing a desire to take over from where Backpage left off.
This appears to be the first use of the criminal prohibitions on promotion and facilitation of prostitution created by
FOSTA, said adult industry attorney Lawrence Walters.
Calls have been made for an emergency fund to support sex workers whose earnings have fallen during the coronavirus crisis.
A third of escorts have been continuing to offer face-to-face meetings, estimated one sex worker.
The English Collective
of Prostitutes said there was precedent for a support fund and without one many had to choose between earning and risking health. There was no reason why the UK could not follow countries such as Japan and Thailand and provide emergency money.
Charlotte Rose, a former sex worker, said many women would not get any help because social stigma had put them off registering as a self-employed sex worker. She estimated a third of escorts were still offering face-to-face services. She commented:
Sex workers are predominantly single mothers and they still have to work, they still have to earn. If they're not registered, they're not applicable for the government funding. If they've got children, how are they
supposed to feed their families?
The government responded in a statement: Universal Credit payments have been increased to help support people through these unprecedented times.