Metro Weekly

Suspect in Scheme That Killed Two Gay Men Pleads Guilty

Eddie Ashley has pleaded guilty to robbery, grand larceny, and identity theft in the plot that allegedly led to overdose deaths.

John Umberger and Julio Ramirez are alleged victims of a drug-induced robbery scheme – Photos: Facebook, Instagram

A suspect involved in the drug-induced robbery scheme that is alleged to have led to the deaths of two gay men in New York City last year has pleaded guilty to robbery, grand larceny, and identity theft charges, according to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

Eddie Ashley, 30, is alleged to have been part of a scheme that targeted at least 16 nightclub patrons from September 2021 to August 2022, resulting in the overdose-related deaths of 25-year-old social worker Julio Ramirez and 34-year-old John Umberger, a political consultant from Washington, D.C. 

Both Ramirez and Umberger were seen leaving gay bars with a group of other men, only to be found dead hours later.

Part of the scheme involved the suspects drugging their victims with a substance that made them compliant and then using their incapacitated bodies and facial recognition technology to unlock their cell phones and access bank accounts to rob them.

Ashley, who faced charges related to four separate incidents, including the drugging scheme, had previously pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.

On Monday, he changed his plea to guilty.

Terrence Grifferty, Ashley’s attorney, confirmed his client’s guilty plea, telling NBC News that Ashley is expected to be sentenced to nine years in state prison on November 20.

He is currently being held at Rikers Island jail, but declined to comment further on the case or answer whether his client had accepted a plea deal.

Umberger’s mother, Linda Clary — who has been critical of how the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has handled the case — said she was grateful that Ashley was willing to admit his guilt in the robbery scheme, adding that he should face consequences for his actions. 

Five other men — Jayqwan Hamilton, Robert Demaio, Jacob Barroso, Andre Butts and Shane Hoskins — have been charged and arrested in connection with the same robbery scheme. Hamilton, Demaio, and Barroso also face charges of murder

All five men have pleaded not guilty and are in police custody awaiting trial.

The robbery ring was apparently one of several occurring in the city around the same period from 2021 to 2022.

Two other men, Kenwood Allen and Sean Shirley, have been indicted for a nearly identical drugging and robbery scheme that targeted at least 21 people and led to five deaths. Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

“Everyone should be safe when they go out and experience Manhattan’s vibrant nightlife, and this multi-year prison sentence makes clear we will not tolerate this type of dangerous conduct,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement.

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