A 24-year-old Texas man has pleaded guilty to using Grindr to lure gay men to a vacant apartment in Dallas in order to assault and rob them.
Last Thursday, Michael Atkinson pleaded guilty to kidnapping and conspiracy charges related to his involvement in the set-ups. In total, Atkinson and his associate, 19-year-old Daniel Jenkins, are alleged to have assaulted and robbed nine men, ranging in age from 19 to 57.
Atkinson and Jenkins allegedly created fake profiles on the gay dating app, posing as gay men and asking their victims to meet them at a vacant apartment in East Dallas. Jenkins would meet the men at their cars and invite them inside, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
The attacks occurred during the first two weeks of December 2017, when Jenkins and Atkinson lured the men inside the apartment and proceeded to hold them at gunpoint, beat them, and rob them of their wallets, car keys, cell phones, IDs and other personal documents.
According to the indictment obtained against Atkinson, at least one man was sexually assaulted with an object, while another was urinated on and had feces wiped on him.
On Dec. 7, one victim was forced at gunpoint to drive to an ATM. On Dec. 11, Atkinson went to one of the victims’ homes to steal property.
Atkinson and Jenkins were eventually arrested in August of last year. Jenkins has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trial on similar charges in September.
In exchange for his guilty plea, Atkinson could face up to life in prison for the kidnapping charge, and five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, and two fines of $250,000 — one for each offense.
Atkinson and Jenkins’ arrests mark the latest in a series of incidents in which criminals have taken advantage of men on dating apps.
Last year, four men pleaded guilty or were sentenced to prison for taking part in a similar scheme in which they used Grindr to gain access to gay men’s homes, assault them, tie them up, and rob them. In September, a man in Oklahoma was arrested and charged with allegedly taking part in a group scheme that used the gay dating app to lure men to a “House of Horrors” where they were severely beaten, held hostage, and robbed.
“The Northern District of Texas will not tolerate criminals who single out victims based on their sexual orientation,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve seen despicable crimes committed on apps like Grindr. I want to urge the public to be vigilant online and recognize the dangers that are lurking there.”