A Texas man was sentenced Wednesday to more than 23 years in federal prison for being part of a scheme targeting gay men using the dating app Grindr to lure and commit violent crimes against them.
According to court documents filed with the US Department of Justice, Daniel Jenkins, a Dallas resident, 22, pleaded guilty in June to targeting gay men in the Dallas area. Jenkins was the last of four to be charged with these crimes.
Beginning in December 2017, Jenkins and three other people created profiles on Grindr, a popular LGBTQ dating platform, to attract “men they perceived to be gay” to a Dallas apartment complex. When the targeted men arrived, the group held the men at gunpoint and forced them to go to ATMs to withdraw money, according to a Justice Department statement.
A few days later, the group lured several men into the apartment complex where they held them at gunpoint, took their personal belongings and assaulted them, causing one physical injury. Jenkins admitted that other members of the conspiracy used homosexual slurs, made fun of the victims and that a conspirator attempted to sexually assault one of the victims. Jenkins also admitted to targeting nine men in total.
Jenkins pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, carjacking, one count of using a firearm in connection with a violent crime and one count of hate crime . He was sentenced to 280 months in federal prison.
“This defendant has targeted innocent victims for violent crimes simply because he believed them to be gay,” Deputy Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “This sentence asserts that bias-motivated crimes are contrary to our national values and underscores the Department of Justice’s commitment to aggressively prosecute bias-motivated crimes, including crimes against the LGBTQI community. We will continue to research justice for victims of bias-motivated crimes, wherever they occur. “
Jenkin’s accomplices, Michael Atkinson, Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon and Daryl Henry, had previously been sentenced to federal prison in the case. Atkinson was sentenced to 11 years, Henry was sentenced to 20 years, and Ceniceros-Deleon was sentenced to 22 years.
Grindr has grown into an increasingly popular dating app for the LGBTQ community since its release in 2009, claiming to be “the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans and queer people.” The location-based app lets its millions of users know how close they are to each other.
Like many other dating apps, Grindr comes with the risk of meeting strangers in private places. The company’s safety guidelines recommend that users verify that the person they are talking to “is truly part of the LGBTQ + community” via social media and advises users to meet in public first.
“We are always saddened to hear about the difficult and sometimes tragic experiences that members of our community have had online and offline,” Grindr said in a statement to USA TODAY. Grindr encourages users to be careful when interacting with people they don’t know and to report inappropriate or illegal behavior either in the app or directly by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Users are encouraged to report criminal allegations to local authorities, and in these cases, we work directly with law enforcement as appropriate. ”
Acting US Attorney Chad Meacham for the North Texas District has said “fanatics often hide online” and the Department of Justice will not tolerate hate-motivated attacks.
“We urge users of dating apps like Grindr to be vigilant,” Meacham said.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @ jordan_mendoza5.