Sentencing Due in LA for Man Who Used Online 'Bait Ads' to Extort $250K

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A 28-year-old man faces a federal prison sentence today for using the internet to extort at least $250,000 from men in Los Angeles, Santa Monica and elsewhere who responded to internet “bait ads'' offering gay sex services.

Over a period of six years, Tyler Buchanan purchased ads on Craigslist, Backpage and other websites that appeared to offer sex services for hire, primarily targeting gay men in multiple cities and states, including numerous locations in Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Once a potential victim responded to Buchanan by contacting a listed phone number, the Nevada-based defendant would search online for personal information on the victim, then respond by text to elicit either conversation that was sexual in nature and/or an agreement to engage in a sex act for money, according to his plea agreement filed in Los Angeles federal court.

Buchanan “targeted and preyed on victims by exploiting their need to keep private their sexual orientation, knowing that the victims would pay him out of fear of personal, professional, reputational, and economic harm,'' prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum. “Defendant's scheme was cruel and hateful.''

After a text conversation that could be potentially embarrassing to the victim, Buchanan would threaten to disclose the texts -- which oftenestablished the man's sexual interest -- as well as threaten to report the victim to law enforcement for solicitation of prostitution -- unless extortion money was paid.

Buchanan -- who also used the name “Thuler O'Naill'' -- posted more than 1,300 bait ads for the scheme, demanding that victims make monthly payments ranging from $100 to $4,000.

From about the start of 2018 to August 2019, Buchanan extorted more than $22,225 from a Los Angeles man. In one of his first threats, Buchanan texted the man, “You'll pay for it one way or another. You choose.''

Prosecutors are recommending a five-year prison sentence. Buchanan's sentencing position was filed under seal. He could get as much as 10 years behind bars, three years on supervised release, a fine of $750,000 and restitution to be determined.

Buchanan pleaded guilty in downtown Los Angeles in January to federal felony charges of using the internet to facilitate unlawful activity, transmitting threatening communications with intent to extort, and receiving and disposing of extortion proceeds.

Photo: Getty Images

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