Two Dallas men pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal hate crime and other charges related to a scheme to lure gay men on Grindr and commit violent acts against them, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
Daryl Henry, 24, pleaded guilty to one hate-crime count and one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, and carjacking. Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon, 19, pleaded guilty to one hate-crime count, one count of carjacking, and one count of use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.
The men and others were involved in a string of crimes in December 2017 in which they used the hookup to lure gay men to a vacant apartment and other areas in and around Dallas for robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, and hate crimes, according to court documents cited in a DOJ press release. Henry said he and others held the victims against their will in the vacant apartment, which Ceniceros-Deleon said he and others traveled to local ATMs to withdraw cash from the victims' accounts. Ceniceros-Deleon also admitted to being the gunman in a December 7, 2017, carjacking where he and others used Grindr to lure a man to a location and then force him, at gunpoint, to drive the conspirators to local ATMs to withdraw cash from his account.
While holding the victims, the perpetrators taunted them with antigay insults, DOJ officials said. But some of the captives suffered more than insults, The Dallas Morning News reported in January of this year. "One victim was smeared with feces and urinated on," and "another was sexually assaulted with an object," the Morning News noted, based on court records.
The crime spree ended only when one of the victims managed to get away and call 911, the Morning News reported. That man had been abducted at gunpoint from a Home Depot parking lot and taken to an apartment where several others were being held. He was able to escape the apartment by telling his captors he had no money on his debit card but would write them a check if they would take him to his home. Once at his home, he fought the men off, got inside, and called police.
Another man, Michael Atkinson, pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy and kidnapping charges in connection with the case. Atkinson will be sentenced in February, while Ceniceros-Deleon will be sentenced April 1. A sentencing hearing for Henry has not been set.
There have been several other incidents of people using Grindr to target gay and bisexual men for crimes, in Dallas and elsewhere.
The FBI's Dallas Field Office investigated the case, and lawyers from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas and the DOJ's Civil Rights Division prosecuted it. The Dallas Police Department is conducting a separate investigation.
"These defendants used Grindr to single out their victim based on sexual orientation -- something the Northern District of Texas simply will not tolerate," Erin Nealy Cox, a U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in the press release. "Unfortunately, this is not the first time a dating app user has fallen victim to a violent crime. I'm urging the public to be vigilant about the dangers lurking online."
"One of the FBI's top priorities is to defend the civil rights of the communities we serve. We actively work with our law enforcement partners to investigate hate crimes and achieve justice for the victims impacted by these violent crimes," added FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno. "The victims in this case were specifically targeted because of their sexual orientation. The FBI wants to reassure the public that we will pursue individuals who commit violent hate acts against any member of our community."