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A California man pleaded guilty in federal court on Tuesday to robbing and assaulting a series of men he met on Grindr over nearly two-and-a-half years.
According to a statement from the Department of Justice in April, Derrick Patterson, 23, of Compton, used the popular dating app to target at least 21 gay men for robbery from November 2019 to March 2022.
"During the robberies, Patterson allegedly pulled weapons -- varyingly, knives or a taser gun -- on his victims, then demanded money and their cell phones, before fleeing the scene with the victims' wallets. On other occasions, Patterson physically assaulted his victims," authorities said.
In the plea agreement announced last week, Patterson admitted to robbing five victims between June 2021 and March 2022 whom he had met through Grindr, DOJ officials said. He also admitted that he assaulted one victim and threatened to shoot another.
The Los Angeles Times reported Patterson used an antigay slur during one robbery, telling the victim, "You b**ches are all the same."
Patterson stole $4,000 from one victim's Venmo account and opened a line of credit with Goldman Sachs using another victim's identity after threatening him with a stun gun, according to authorities. He drained almost $4,000 from one victim's account, and nearly $1,400 from another's. He also made unauthorized purchases using credit cards he had stolen from the victims.
He stabbed one victim in the chest with a knife, authorities said in April. The victim survived, and was able to positively identify Patterson as his attacker from a photographic line-up.
Grindr has been used by multiple criminals to target victims. In May, police in Spain arrested a man suspected of killing at least four men he met on Grindr. In February, three gang members were arrested by Indian police in Ahmedabad on Tuesday in connection with a string of robberies and assaults on men they had targeted through Grindr. Three men in Texas were charged in July 2021 with murdering two same-sex couples.
In response to a request for comment from Los Angeles's NBC affiliate KNBC, a Grindr spokesperson said the company is resolute in protecting its users.
"Grindr takes the privacy and safety of our users extremely seriously and we work constantly to better protect our users. Grindr publishes a Holistic Security Guide and Safety Tips available from within the Grindr App and on Grindr's website, and we encourage users to be careful when interacting with people they do not know," the spokesperson told the outlet. "We encourage our users to report improper or illegal behavior either within the app or directly via email to email@example.com, and to report criminal allegations to the authorities and, in these cases, we work with law enforcement as appropriate."
Patterson pleaded guilty to one count each of the Hobbs Act robbery and aggravated identity theft, according to DOJ officials. He faces a maximum of 22 years in federal prison when he is sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge John F. Water on September 19.
Authorities said an FBI investigation is ongoing. Those who may have been a victim of Patterson's are used to contact the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office at (310) 477-6565.