Two men in Texas are facing a federal hate crime charge after using gay hook-up app Grindr to kidnap and rob nine gay men, smearing faeces over victims.
Daniel Jenkins, 19, and Michael Atkinson, 24, were indicted on 15 counts by a federal grand jury in Texas over the assaults, which took place during the first two weeks of December 2017.
According to the indictment, the pair used Grindr to find prospective victims, who were lured to a vacant apartment in Dallas where they were assaulted, taunted and robbed.
Grindr crime: Victims were robbed and humiliated
The pair allegedly humiliated the victims, subjecting them to homophobic slurs while holding them at gunpoint in the apartment.
According to the indictment, the pair smeared faeces over one of the men, while another victim was reportedly sexually assaulted with an object.
The victims were robbed of their mobile phones, cars, identification, keys and wallets. One victim was forced to drive to an ATM to withdraw more money.
Jenkins and Atkinson were charged with conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, and carjacking on January 8.
An attorney for Jenkins told the Dallas Morning News that his client denies the accusations and will contest the hate crime charge. Atkinson’s attorney is yet to comment.
US Attorney Erin Nealy Cox, of the Northern District of Texas, told the newspaper: “Criminals are using apps like Grindr to single out victims based on their sexual orientation.
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“My office is committed to rooting out these despicable crimes motivated by hate.”
Eric K. Jackson, Special Agent-In-Charge of Dallas’ FBI office, added: “As the lead agency for the investigation of federal hate crime violations, the FBI is committed to aggressively identifying and pursuing those using online apps, such as Grindr, to commit acts of violence or intimidation against an individual or community based on their protected class status.”
Spate of Grindr crime has seen the app used to target gay men
The case is not the first time that the gay hook-up app has been used by criminals in the area.
Four men were previously jailed for a separate spate of hate crime robberies that took place in Dallas in January and February of 2017.
Anthony Shelton, 20, Nigel Garrett, 21, Chancler Encalade, 20, and Cameron Ajiduah, 19, were jailed after using Grindr to arrange fake hook-ups with unsuspecting victims.
The men would travel to the victim’s address and force their way in brandishing a firearm, before assaulting and restraining the victims, robbing them, and humiliating them by shouting anti-gay slurs.
Shelton was handed a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to hate crime charges over the crime spree.
Ajiduah and Garrett were sentenced to 15 years in prison, while Encalade was sentenced to 10 years behind bars.
Police in Oklahoma also reported a similar incident in September 2018.