Photo: Getty

An Argentine man who advertised services to help lonely victims find love using witchcraft and spells before extorting them over sexually explicit videos was sentenced this week to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, Ariel Boiteux, working with several others, manipulated victims into recording themselves performing rituals of a graphic sexual nature ostensibly intended to help them find love. Boiteux, who the Los Angeles Times says describes himself as a sorcerer, then used those videos to extort the victims out of money with the threat that if they did not, he would share the video or images publicly.

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Beginning in 2015, Boiteux and his co-conspirators—operating from Paraguay under the name Amarres Inmediatos—advised clients to purchase items that usually included photographs, candles, alcohol, and food items, according to court documents. Boiteux and the others involved in the scheme then gave instructions for how to arrange the objects and carry out the rituals, for which they were charged a fee.

During the rituals, victims were told to “among other things, drink alcohol, recite sexually explicit statements, and perform sexual acts,” per court records. They were further advised to document themselves doing so and to share those photographs and videos with the associates of Amarres Inmediatos.

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Once the victims had produced those sexually explicit images, Boiteux and the others would demand money from the victims with the threat that if an individual did not pay up, they would make the images or video public by selling them to tabloids, among other methods. The extortion included, per court records, posting documentation of the rituals to social media and public websites and threatening to leave them up unless the victims paid the demanded amount.

Boiteux and his accomplices used the website amarres-inmediatos.com, e-commerce site MercadoLibre, as well as social media including Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram to advertise the services for witchcraft and magic. A Facebook spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Paraguay authorities believe that more than 200 people globally were victimized in the scheme, according to the Los Angeles Times. Those individuals included a woman described as “well-connected public figure with access to significant financial resources,” of whom Boiteux demanded a payment of $250,000 to keep the images out of the public eye.

Boiteux was apprehended in Paraguay in 2017 during a sting operation involving an undercover agent with the Homeland Security Investigations arm of the Department of Homeland Security who had contacted Boiteux about purchasing recordings of one of his victims that had been shared online.

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Boiteux was arrested by Paraguayan authorities while attempting to pick up a wire transfer for the images at a Western Union in Ciudad del Este, and he was extradited in 2018 to San Diego. Three others were arrested in connection to the crime, including Boiteux’s teen brother.

“This was a despicable scheme that preyed upon people who put their trust in a phony,” U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said in a statement. “This defendant used the vulnerability of the lovelorn to humiliate and extort them, and for that, he will pay a price.”

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Boiteux received the maximum penalty for the crimes.