A Texas man was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison on Wednesday for his connection to a scheme that used the popular dating app Grindr to target gay men for violent hate crimes, prosecutors said.
The man, Daniel Jenkins, 22, of Dallas, pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, carjacking, one count of hate crime and a count of using a firearm during and in connection with a violent crime, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Mr Jenkins was the last of four defendants to be convicted of the conspiracy that used Grindr, a social media app primarily used by gay men.
An attorney for Mr Jenkins was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.
“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 the statement. She added that the sentence “underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to aggressively prosecute bias-motivated crimes, including crimes against the LGBTQI community.”
The scheme began in December 2017 when Mr Jenkins and a co-conspirator created profiles on Grindr to lure men to places they would steal them, the Justice Department said.
In an incident earlier this month, after the men arrived, conspiracy members held the men at gunpoint and forced them to go to ATMs to withdraw money from their homes. accounts, according to the Justice Department.
In another incident this month, Mr Jenkins admitted, prosecutors said, that he and others “lured multiple victims” into an apartment complex, pointed a handgun at them, shot them. stole their property and assaulted them, injuring one of them.
Mr Jenkins told investigators members of his group used homosexual slurs and taunted the victims and that a member attempted to sexually assault one of the victims, the Justice Department said.
Prosecutors said Mr Jenkins also admitted to participating in the carjacking of at least one victim.
Mr Jenkins’ co-conspirators were Michael Atkinson, Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon and Daryl Henry, all in their twenties. The three men pleaded guilty in June and their sentences ranged from 11 to 22 years.
“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, fanatics are often in hiding online,” Chad Meacham, acting US attorney for the North Texas District, said in a statement. “We urge users of dating apps like Grindr to be vigilant.”
Grindr is one of the many dating apps that have grown in popularity among LGBTQ users and helped redefine the way they meet. Released in 2009, Grindr is a location-based app that tells its millions of users around the world how far away they are.
In a statement Thursday, Grindr said he was “always saddened to hear about the difficult and sometimes tragic experiences that members of our community have had both online and offline.”
The company added that it encourages its users “to be careful when interacting with people they don’t know.”
In its safety guidelines, the company suggests that if someone wants to meet another user of the app, “do so first in public, in a safe space like an LGBTQ + friendly cafe, and be careful of whatever possessions you have. take with you “.