A Texas man has been sentenced to over 23 years in federal prison on Wednesday for being part of a scheme that targeted gay men using the dating app Grindr to lure and commit violent crimes against them.
According to court documents filed to the U.S. Department of Justice, 22-year-old Dallas resident Daniel Jenkins pleaded guilty in June for targeting gay men around the Dallas area. Jenkins was the last of four people to be charged for the crimes.
Beginning in December 2017, Jenkins and three people created profiles on Grindr, a popular LGBTQ dating platform, to lure “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 drive to ATMs to withdraw cash, according to a statement by the Justice Department.
A few days later, the group lured multiple men to the apartment complex where they held them at gunpoint, took their personal property and assaulted them, leaving one personal physically injured. Jenkins admitted other members of the conspiracy used gay slurs, taunted the victims, and one conspirator attempted to sexually assault one of the victims. Jenkins also admitted he targeted a total of nine men.
Jenkins pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, carjacking, one count of use a firearm in relation to a crime of violence and one hate crime count. He was sentenced to 280 months in federal prison.
“This defendant targeted innocent victims for violent crimes simply because he believed they were gay,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’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.”
Jenkin’s coconspirators, Michael Atkinson, Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon and Daryl Henry, had already 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 22 years.
Grindr has become an increasingly popular dating app for the LGBTQ community since it was released in 2009, claiming to be the “world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans and queer people.” The located-based app lets its millions of users find out how close they are to one another.
Like many other dating apps, Grindr comes with the risk of meeting strangers in private locations. The company’s safety guidelines recommend users check the person they are talking to “is truly part of the LGBTQ+ community” through social media and advises users to meet in public first.
“We are always saddened to hear about the difficult and sometimes tragic experiences that our community members have experienced both online and off,” Grindr said in a statement to USA TODAY. “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 [email protected] Users are encouraged to report criminal allegations to local authorities, and in these cases, we work directly with law enforcement as appropriate.”
Acting U.S. Attorney Chad Meacham for the Northern District of Texas said “bigots often lurk online” and the Justice Department will not tolerate hate-based attacks.
“We urge users of dating apps like Grindr to remain vigilant,” Meacham said.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.