Texas Man Takes Plea Bargain in Grindr Robbery Conspiracy

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday October 15, 2021

A 22-year-old Texas man accepted a plea deal that puts him in jail for the next 23 years for his role in a conspiracy carried out by him and three others to use Grindr to lure, rob, and assault their victims, The New York Times reported.

The Times said that "Daniel Jenkins, 22, of Dallas, pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, carjacking, one hate crime count and one count of using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence," adding that Jenkins "was the last of four defendants to be sentenced".

The others — Michael Atkinson, Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon and Daryl Henry, all in their twenties — "pleaded guilty in June, and their sentences ranged from 11 to 22 years," the Times noted.

NBC News detailed the men's crimes, reporting that they "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," according to a statement from the Justice Department.

An attorney for Jenkins, Heath Hyde, told the press that the plea deal was accepted "because he was potentially looking at a life sentence."

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division underscored in the statement that Jenkins "targeted innocent victims for violent crimes simply because he believed they were gay," and declared that the sentence reflects "the Justice Department's commitment to aggressively prosecuting bias-motivated crimes, including crimes against the LGBTQI community."

The Justice Department had previously noted the vicious nature of the crimes the four men carried out, with one of them reportedly attempting to commit sexual assault against a victim. On another occasion, the group smeared a man they had lured with feces.

NBC News said that the popular dating app "has been criticized for safety and privacy concerns in recent years," and noted that its use by the group in Dallas to lure victims "is one of several instances in which Grindr has been reported to have been used to target LGBTQ men around the world."

NBC recalled London man Stephen Port, also known as "The Grindr Killer," who "was sentenced to life in prison in 2016 for drugging, raping and killing four men he met through the app."

Lone criminals are not the only ones who have exploited dating apps in order to lure victims; the Times also recalled that three years ago, "Egyptian authorities and residents were widely reported to have used Grindr and other dating apps to entrap and persecute gay men."

Grindr's safety guidelines encourage users to meet potential dates in a safe public locale "like an LGBTQ+ friendly cafe, and be careful about what possessions you take with you," NBC News noted.

Grindr also advises that users adopt a buddy system for safety. "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 app's guidelines say.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.