Three Texas men who used a dating app to target gay men to steal, kidnap and commit other hate crimes were sentenced to federal prison ranging from 11 to 22 years.
A fourth Texan member of the group is set to be sentenced on Oct. 6 for committing hate crimes against homosexuals. He faces a maximum of 26 years in prison.
“One of the top priorities of the FBI is to defend the civil rights of the communities we serve. We are actively working with our law enforcement partners to investigate hate crimes and obtain justice for the victims affected by these violent crimes, ”Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno of the FBI Field Office told Dallas in a press release Thursday. “The victims in this case have been specifically targeted because of their sexual orientation. The FBI wants to reassure the public that we will prosecute individuals who commit acts of violent hate against any member of our community. “
The three defendants have targeted up to nine men in and around Dallas for crimes such as kidnapping, assault and other hate crimes, according to federal court records.
While the victims were held at gunpoint, some of them were physically assaulted, at least one man was sexually assaulted, and all of the victims were taunted with homosexual slurs, federal authorities said.
The men sentenced on Wednesday included Michael Atkinson, 28, Daryl Henry, 24, and Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon, 21. Ceniceros-Deleon was sentenced to 22 years, Henry 20 years and Atkinson 11 years.
Federal authorities have identified the fourth suspect as Daniel Jenkins, who is due to be sentenced in October.
The group began using Grindr on December 6, 2017, a social media dating app used primarily by gay men to lure men into a Dallas apartment complex, according to court documents.
When the men arrived, the suspects held the men at gunpoint and forced them to go to local ATMs to withdraw money from their accounts.