A man has been jailed by a Los Angeles court after extorting at least $150,000 from gay men who responded to “bait ads” offering sex services for hire.
Tyler Buchanan, 29, was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay almost $68,000 to the men he extorted, NBC’s LA affiliate KNBC reports.
Buchanan targeted gay men in Southern California by placing ads on various websites, including Craigslist, offering sex services.
When someone contacted a number attached to the ads, Buchanan would encourage them to send sexually explicit messages, or messages confirming they wished to hire him for sex.
Buchanan would then threaten to share their conversations or report the men to police for soliciting for prostitution, unless they agreed to pay him to maintain his silence.
He operated the scheme for six years, the court heard, posting more than 1,300 adverts and demanding payments of between $100 and $4,000 from victims.
One man in Los Angeles paid Buchanan more than $22,000 for his silence, with Buchanan texting him, “You’ll pay for it one way or another. You choose.”
Buchanan pleaded guilty to three felony charges: using the internet to facilitate unlawful activist, transmitting threatening communications with intent to extort, and receiving and disposing of the money he extorted.
He told the court that he was “a damaged and angry person and desperate for money” when he started his scheme. “I broke the law and acted like a person I’m not proud of,” he added. “I took money from other people and I scared them.'”
U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II said Buchanan “tormented numerous victims over many years,” sentencing him to five years in prison and ordering him to pay his victims $67,567.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!