A Miami man is facing life in prison after he pleaded guilty to a string of carjackings, kidnappings, robberies, and assaults targeting gay men he met on Grindr.
Stevenson Charles, 21, admitted he engaged in an escalating series of crimes against five gay men from October 23 to November 6 last year. He pleaded guilty to 17 different charges related to the crime spree, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.
In October, Charles admitted he invited a man he met on Grindr to his home in Miami for sex. Once the man arrived, Charles pulled a gun on the man, forced him to drive to two different ATMs, withdraw $1,000 in cash, and give it to him.
The following month Charles targeted another man on Grindr, arranging to meet at an undisclosed Miami location for sex. This time he used the gun to force the man to drive him to local pharmacy stores where he used the victim’s credit card to make purchases. He also scrolled through pictures on the victim’s phone, some of which showed the victim with other men. Charles threatened he “would kill everyone” like the victim as he beat him with the gun, prosecutors said.
Later that month, Charles attacked again. This time he arranged to meet a man in Dania Beach for sex. Once there, Charles kidnapped the man and told him he “hated gay people and believed they should be punished,” authorities said. He forced the man to drive to his own residence in Aventura where he had been living with another couple. Once there, Charles robbed the couple at gunpoint, forcing them to drive to an ATM and give him the $1,500 he forced them to withdraw. He left the couple at their home in Aventura and then had the man he met on Grindr drive back to Dania Beach where he shot him multiple times including in the head.
The victim survived the shooting and was able to call the police. Charles was identified as a suspect, and he was later arrested in Georgia.
The arrest and plea were the results of a joint investigation between the FBI Miami Field Office, the City of Miami Police Department, the Miami-Dade Police Department, the Aventura Police Department, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office. This case is also part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), which coordinates efforts between law enforcement and the local communities with the goal of reducing crime and gun violence.
The case is the most recent in a series of attacks involving the popular gay dating and hookup app, Grindr.
Earlier this month, Zechariah Warren, 19, was arrested in Georgia after he allegedly robbed at gunpoint up to seven men he had met on Grindr. One of the victims said he met Warren on Grindr, but immediately sensed a bad vibe upon meeting up at a local condominium complex in Atlanta.
“Once I got there that night it was essentially a weird kind of vibe,” the victim later said. “I said I was ready to go and that’s when things kind of turned really scary and dark and his mood kind of changed and that’s where he like pulled out a weapon which was a gun.”
The victim said the suspect started pointing the gun at him, refused to let him leave, and demanded cash. When the victim refused he said the suspect snatched his bag and took off from the apartment.
Last month, a Louisiana man who confessed to the kidnapping and attempted murder and dismemberment of a gay man he met on Grindr pleaded guilty to one count of kidnapping and was sentenced to 45 years in federal prison. The attack took place on June 20, 2020, and Seneca admitted he intended to dismember and eat the flesh of his victim, Holden White, who was 18 at the time he was attacked.
“When I wake up, I am in his bathtub naked. The water is running, and it’s cold,” White told The Advocate, a Louisiana newspaper unaffiliated with this publication, in 2021. “He is in the process of doing my left wrist. It was to the point that he was basically trying to cut off my hands.”
Seneca later called the police to say he had murdered a man.
Last year, a California man pleaded guilty in federal court 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 last 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 addition to his current charges, Charles still faces the possibility of hate crime enhancements. His next court appearance is April 24.