A Texas man was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison for using an LGBTQ dating app to commit violent hate crimes against gay men, officials said Wednesday.
Daniel Jenkins, 22, pleaded guilty in June to committing a series of robberies, carjackings and other crimes in the Dallas area in December 2017, the Justice Department said in a statement. Jenkins, the last of four co-conspirators charged in the scheme, faced the stiffest sentence of the group.
The four men created fake profiles on the popular men’s dating app Grindr to lure nine men to an apartment complex in Dallas. When the victims arrived, they were held at gunpoint and forced to drive to ATMs to withdraw cash from their accounts, the statement said.
“This defendant targeted innocent victims for violent crimes simply because he believed they were gay,” the assistant attorney general for civil rights, Kristen Clarke, 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."
The Justice Department said members of the conspiracy used homophobic slurs and taunted the victims. In a previous statement, the Justice Department said four of the victims were physically assaulted, three were sexually assaulted, and one was wiped with urine and feces.
Jenkins’ co-conspirators — Michael Atkinson, Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon and Daryl Henry — all pleaded guilty in June. They were in their 20s, as well.
Atkinson was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison, Ceniceros-Deleon was sentenced to 22 years, and Henry was sentenced to 20 years, the Justice Department said.
Grindr, which was founded in 2009, has been criticized for safety and privacy concerns in recent years. The Dallas case is one of several instances in which Grindr has been reported to have been used to target LGBTQ men around the world.
“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, bigots often lurk online,” Chad Meacham, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement. “We urge users of dating apps like Grindr to remain vigilant.”
In one of the best-known cases, Stephen Port — the man dubbed “The Grindr Killer” — was sentenced to life in prison in 2016 for drugging, raping and killing four men he met through the app. In 2018, Egyptian authorities and residents were widely reported to have used Grindr and other dating apps to entrap and persecute gay men.
More than 20 percent of the 7,554 single-bias hate crime incidents reported last year were motivated by sexual-orientation bias, according to the FBI’s latest Hate Crime Statistics report.
In its safety guidelines, Grindr advises users: “If you do choose to meet, we recommend you do so in public first, at a safe space like an LGBTQ+ friendly cafe, and be careful about what possessions you take with you.
“Make sure a responsible person you trust knows who you’re meeting, where you’re going, and when you’re planning on coming back,” the guidelines continue.
In an email, Grindr referred to its safety guidelines, adding that it is “always saddened to hear about the difficult and sometimes tragic experiences that our community members have experienced both online and off.”