An Argentine man accused of masterminding a global extortion scheme that preyed on people hoping to find love through magic spells pleaded guilty in San Diego federal court Monday.
Ariel Boiteux’s guilty plea comes just weeks after a San Diego federal judge found him to be mentally competent to move forward with his prosecution.
Boiteux, a computer expert and self-described sorcerer, was among four suspects arrested in Paraguay last year in connection with the witchcraft services offered by Amarres Inmediatos. He was extradited in July to face charges in San Diego.
The scheme tapped into a Latin American industry in which witches or spiritual guides use black or white magic for “amarres de amor,” or “moorings of love.”
According to the plea agreement, Boiteux and his associates advertised on social media and MercadoLibre, an online marketplace similar to Craigslist.
Boiteux’s group offered to perform the rituals remotely for clients and instructed them to arrange specific items, such as candles and photographs. They were then told to drink alcohol, recite sexually explicit statements and perform sexual acts, all while video recording or photographing the ritual.
The clients were instructed to send in the videos or photos of the ritual to complete the spell. The clients then received threats to send more money or their intimate recordings would be posted online.
Boiteux’s network would research victims ahead of time to determine who was ripe for extortion, according to the plea agreement.
Authorities in Paraguay estimated that the scheme victimized more than 200 people around the world, including in the U.S., Mexico, Peru, Switzerland and Spain. The first report to law enforcement came from the U.S., according to media reports in Paraguay.
The plea agreement admits to only one victim. After Boiteux researched the client, he determined the person was a public figure and had significant resources, according to the plea. Boiteux’s associates then extorted the victim, who ended up wiring $7,200 through Western Union in February 2017. The threats continued after that with demands for $250,000, the plea agreement states.
The victim’s name was not released, and it is unknown if the victim has any San Diego ties.
Prosecutors have said earlier that in October 2017, Boiteux caused $800 to be wired to a co-conspirator from a Western Union agent in San Diego to Paraguay.
After Boiteux’s extradition to San Diego, his mental competency was in question and an exam was ordered.