A Texas man has been sentenced to 23 years in federal prison for his role in a scheme that targeted LGBTQ men on the dating app Grindr.
Daniel Jenkins, 22, of Dallas, Texas, pleaded guilty on October 13 to committing violent crimes such as kidnapping, carjacking, and hate crimes against victims he perceived as gay on the app, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a written statement. Jenkins was the last to be sentenced in a group of defendants, including Michael Atkinson, Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon, and Daryl Henry, the DOJ said.
In December 2017, Jenkins and other coconspirators began luring gay men on the app to an apartment complex, where he robbed them at gunpoint and assaulted them, according to the defendant’s guilty plea. The attackers also forced the victims to withdraw money from their ATM accounts. In Jenkins’ guilty plea, he admitted that members of the group spewed anti-LGBTQ slurs at the men, and at least one member attempted to sexually assault a victim.
“This defendant targeted innocent victims for violent crimes simply because he believed they were gay,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “This sentence affirms that bias-motivated crimes run contrary to our national values and underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to aggressively prosecuting bias-motivated crimes, including crimes against the LGBTQI community. We will continue to pursue justice for victims of bias-motivated crimes, wherever they occur.”
In the wake of the sentencing, Chad Meacham, the acting US attorney for the Northern District of Texas, urged for users on Grindr “to remain vigilant.”
“This defendant singled out victims based on their perceived sexual orientation, then viciously assaulted them. The Department of Justice will not tolerate these sorts of heinous, hate-based attacks,” Meacham said in a written statement. “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, bigots often lurk online.”
Grindr also made headlines in May in a separate case out of Atlanta, where police issued a warning that suspects were using the app to complete a string of armed robberies against LGBTQ men.
Grindr publishes a security guide and safety guidelines, which advise users not to bring credit or ATM cards and other essential belongings to hookups and to meet people in potentially safe locations. In a statement to Gay City News, a spokesperson for Grindr encouraged users to “report criminal allegations to local authorities.”
“We are always saddened to hear about the difficult and sometimes tragic experiences that our community members have experienced both online and off,” a spokesperson for Grindr said in a statement to Gay City News. “Grindr encourages users to be careful when interacting with people they do not know and to report improper or illegal behavior either within the app or directly via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
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