Two Texas men have pleaded guilty to hate crime charges related to their use of Grindr to entrap gay men and commit violent crimes against them.
Daryl Henry, 24, and Pablo Cineceros-Deleon, 19, allegedly used the app to target users with the intent of committing various assaults, kidnappings, carjackings, assaults, and thefts against their victims because of their sexual orientation.
According to court documents, the two confessed to luring gay men to a vacant apartment and other areas in and around Dallas where their victims would be vulnerable.
Henry admitted that he and others had held the victims against their will in the apartment. Ceniceros-Deleon admitted that he and others then traveled to local ATMs to withdraw cash from the victims’ bank accounts. While the men were held captive, they were subjected to taunts based on their sexual orientation.
Henry pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime charge and conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping and carjacking, while Cineceros-Deleon pleaded guilty to one charge of violating the federal hate crimes act, one charge of carjacking, and a charge of using a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.
Ceniceros-Deleon also admitted to being the gunman in a Dec. 7, 2017, carjacking where he and others used Grindr to lure a man to a location and then forced him, at gunpoint, to drive them to local ATMs where they could withdraw cash from the man’s account.
A third man, Michael Atkinson, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping charges in connection with the case. He is scheduled to be sentenced in February. Ceniceros-Deleon is scheduled to be sentenced in April, and could face up to 30 years in prison for his crimes. The court has not yet set a sentencing hearing for Henry, who could face up to 15 years in prison.
“Kidnappings, carjackings, thefts, sexual assaults, and armed, violent attacks against innocent people are heinous crimes, and when perpetrators commit those crimes against victims because of their sexual orientation, the U.S. Department of Justice will continue zealously to seek justice for the victims and to punish the perpetrators to the full extent of the law,” Eric Dreiband, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “Prosecuting those who commit such monstrous acts because of victims’ sexual orientation is a priority of the Department of Justice, and we will continue to bring to justice anyone who commits such hateful, violent crimes.”
“These defendants used Grindr to single out their victim based on sexual orientation — something the Northern District of Texas simply will not tolerate,” Erin Nealy Cox, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, added. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time a dating app user has fallen victim to a violent crime. I’m urging the public to be vigilant about the dangers lurking online.”
Using Grindr to poach crime victims is not an original idea, and has been utilized in several different instances in recent years.
In North Texas in 2018, four men either pleaded guilty or were found guilty of using Grindr to arrange meetings with men at their houses in order to rob them.
A similar case in Baltimore saw three suspects use the app to trick at least four unsuspecting victims into meeting with them with the intent of robbing them.
In Oklahoma, police arrested a man — thought to have worked with at least two other men and a woman — who was accused of using Grindr to arrange meetings with gay men at a “house of horrors” where multiple men were forced to lie on the dirty floor of a garage strewn with trash and old mattresses while their attackers stole their personal belongings and attempted to withdraw money from their bank accounts.
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