SAN DIEGO – Ariel Boiteux, a 31-year-old Argentine national who masterminded an international extortion scheme against hundreds of people seeking romance through witchcraft and magic spells, was sentenced in federal court Monday to the maximum sentence - two years in prison.
The sentencing is the result of a yearlong investigation conducted by special agents from ICE Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. In addition to the maximum prison term, Boiteux was ordered to pay a $250,00 fine.
According to court documents, targets of the scheme were directed to record themselves performing sexually explicit rituals to be used in casting love spells. Boiteux instead threatened to post the embarrassing videos on social media unless the clients paid large sums of money.
“I commend the dedicated work by our cybercrime experts who worked diligently to uncover the scheme in which Boiteux dangerously preyed upon others for his own financial gain,” said David Shaw, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. “This investigation underscores our commitment to keep pace with combatting criminal activity across all borders, including the Internet.”
According to his plea agreement, Boiteux and several associates – operating out of Paraguay under the business name Amarres Inmediatos – offered to perform rituals that could improve romantic relationships. Boiteux advertised these services on Facebook, Instagram and MercadoLibre. The advertised services included casting spells designed to foster romantic relationships.
Clients who contacted Amarres Inmediatos soon learned that the rituals were performed remotely rather than in person. Clients were provided with a list of items to purchase, which typically included candles, alcohol, vegetables, and photographs. The ritual called for the client to drink alcohol, recite sexually explicit incantations, and perform sexual acts, all while recording the ritual. The client would then send the recordings of the ritual back to Boiteux and his associates, who would threaten to publicize the sexually explicit recordings unless the client paid an amount that far exceeded the initial price agreed upon for the ritual. In his plea agreement, Boiteux admitted to researching the clients to see who would be susceptible to extortion.
In February 2017, the plea agreement said that Boiteux obtained sensitive recordings of a client performing a ritual. The defendant researched the client’s background and determined that she was a well-connected public figure with access to significant financial resources. Boiteux and his associates then contacted the client and threatened to publicize the recordings unless she paid more than $250,000.
According to the plea agreement, in the fall of 2017, an undercover agent from Homeland Security Investigations called a phone number on the Amarres Inmediatos website and offered to purchase recordings of another victim, portions of which had been uploaded to publicly-available websites in an attempt to extort that victim. Boiteux agreed to sell the recordings for thousands of dollars and instructed the undercover agent to send a money transfer through Western Union. After the agent sent the money transfer, Paraguayan law enforcement officers waited at a Western Union in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay where Boiteux had picked up a previous money transfer. As expected, Boiteux arrived a short time later to pick up the transfer, but instead was arrested by Paraguayan officers. Boiteux was extradited to San Diego in July 2018.