A 24-year-old man has pleaded guilty to using Grindr to lure gay men to a vacant Dallas apartment to assault and then rob them, officials announced.
Michael Atkinson pleaded guilty Thursday to kidnapping and conspiracy charges in a plot that federal prosecutors said targeted gay men in Dallas.
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve seen despicable crimes on apps like Grindr,” US Attorney Erin Nealy Cox said in a statement. “I want to urge the public to be vigilant online and recognize the dangers that are lurking there.”
According to court documents, Atkinson and conspirator Daniel Jenkins used the app during a five-day crime spree.
At least six victims were identified by investigators.
According to the indictment, Atkinson and Jenkins posed as gay men on Grindr in December 2017 and used the app to bait victims between 19 and 57 years old.
The men allegedly used a handgun to hold the men against their will, forcing them to hand over their property. In one case, they allegedly forced a victim to walk to a nearby ATM to withdraw cash. Victims were hit on the head, assaulted, and called gay slurs during the attacks, according to court documents.
On Dec. 11, 2017, Atkinson walked into the vacant apartment to find that “a co-conspirator” had sexually assaulted at least one of the victims, and urinated and wiped human feces on the victim.
Court documents did not identify the conspirator.
The violent attacks are not the first time authorities in Texas have seen criminals use Grindr to target victims.
In May 2017, four men in Texas were charged with hate crimes for setting up false profiles in the app to also target gay men.
On Thursday, Atkinson pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors. He faces up to five years for the charge of conspiracy, and a possible life sentence for the kidnapping charge.
Jenkins has yet to stand trial.