Metro Weekly

Armed robbery suspects targeted LGBTQ people through dating apps, Orlando police say

Teenage suspects would arrange in-person meetings with victims seeking to be discreet, hoping they wouldn't report the crimes.

grindr
A man on a smartphone – Photo: Jonas Leupe, via Unsplash.

A 18-year-old man and a 16-year-old have been charged with hate crimes after Orlando police say they used Grindr and other apps to carry out a series of robberies that largely targeted the LGBTQ community.

According to the Orlando Police Department, at least eight armed robberies and one kidnapping occurred between June and mid-July. The crimes took place in several housing complexes along the Millenia Boulevard corridor. 

Police have decided to withhold the identities of the suspects at this time, saying they believe there may be more victims who will need to identify their attackers, reports CBS affiliate WKMG-TV.Catholic priest resigns after being accused of using Grindr and visiting gay bars

The teenaged suspects allegedly would ask to meet up to purchase an item or for a physical encounter, using apps like Grindr, Snapchat, Craigslist, Sniffies, Offer-Up, and Letgo. Once the victim arrived, they would be threatened with a replica firearm and robbed of phones, cash, and credit cards. 

A press release from the police department said the suspects “targeted victims wishing to conceal their identity and activities, knowing they would likely not report the robberies.”

In some cases, victims were instructed to transfer cash to the suspects’ accounts from mobile banking or payment apps.

“Two cases are actually folks that were out of state, out of county, out of the area who were staying in hotels. The suspects actually paid for Uber rides to their hotel to pick them up and bring them back to the crime scenes,” said Sgt. Mike Massicotte, of Orlando Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit.

Massicote says during one of the robberies, one of the suspects reportedly said, “This is what you get for doing that gay [expletive].”

See also: Three Texas men sentenced after using Grindr to target gay men for violent crimes

That information allowed police to pursue hate crime charges against the teens.

“That tripped the trigger for us to be able to mark it as a hate crime. We will now go backwards and all the other social dating websites that have that same feel, will also be labeled as a hate crime because of that,” Massicotte said.

He added that any victims who wish to keep their identity secret do not need to press charges, but he wants to “know their story, so I can fill in all the blanks of all the incidents that were missing on these individuals.”

Those with information about the robberies or anyone who was victimized in the Millenia area can call Orlando police detectives at 407-246-2927, or, if they wish to remain anonymous, can call the Central Florida Crimeline hotline at 1-800-423-TIPS (8477) or submit a tip online via crimeline.org.

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