The New York City Police Department is investigating another robbery in connection with a wide-ranging criminal scheme in which a group of suspects allegedly drugged and robbed patrons at various nightlife establishments, including several gay bars.
According to NBC News, the previously unreported incident occurred days before six suspects allegedly involved in the scheme were arrested and indicted on charges of grand larceny, first-degree robbery, and conspiracy to drug and rob at least a dozen victims at various clubs and bars.
Three of the men also face murder charges related to the deaths of D.C. political consultant John Umberger and Brooklyn social worker Julio Ramirez, who both died from overdoses of a mix of fentanyl, cocaine, ethanol, and other drugs.
The suspects in the criminal ring allegedly drugged their victims to incapacitate and rob them, often using facial recognition technology to access their phones, between September 2021 and August 2022.
The most recent victim, a 30-year-old gay man known as “Michael” — whose full name is being kept confidential — said he went out on March 25 to The Eagle NYC, a gay bar in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, where at least three other drugging victims claimed to have gone prior to being robbed.
According to Michael, he was intoxicated when three men approached him and his friends after leaving the bar around 3:45 a.m.
From what he could recall, he entered a taxi with the men, while his friends went home in a separate taxi.
Michael remembers being in an unknown apartment before regaining consciousness several hours later without his cell phone. When he came to, a woman he didn’t know — but who knew his name — was shaking him on the side of a street in East Harlem, about 80 blocks north of The Eagle NYC.
“She was not trying to help, the way she was speaking to me,” he said. “She was annoyed and trying to get rid of me.”
He then hailed a cab and returned home to Brooklyn. He woke up later in the day and realized his bank accounts had been drained of nearly $5,000, leaving only $40 in his accounts, which he used to pay for the taxi ride home. Michael reported the robbery to police.
“I drink…generally most weekends, and I use cocaine recreationally, so I know what these substances are supposed to feel like,” he told NBC News. “And the way that I just like completely blacked out, have no recollection at all — that’s never happened to me before. I’ve never felt like this before. And the way that I felt for the whole next two days, is not like any kind of hangover or withdrawal I’ve ever experienced.”
A spokesperson for the NYPD confirmed that a 30-year-old man had filed a police report after “$5,000 worth of unauthorized charges were made from his checking and savings account after spending time with three unknown males.”
Authorities are investigating Michael’s complaint as connected to the same “citywide robbery pattern” that led to the indictments of the six suspects earlier this year.
Police have previously stated that, although many of the victims targeted by this particular group are gay men, they were targeted for financial gain and not due to their sexual orientation.
The Eagle NYC previously warned its followers on Instagram back in February of ongoing threats from “drug dealers and thieves” who it claimed were using facial recognition technology to access people’s bank accounts.
The post advised patrons to turn off facial recognition technology on their phones and gave them instructions on how to disable the technology.
“To be in what I thought was kind of a safe space like the Eagle — some place that I feel safe and welcomed — to be in that environment and to have my own drunken friendliness be taken advantage of like this, it’s a major violation,” Michael said. “It makes me feel unsafe in a place that’s been my home for a long time.”
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