Two Texas men pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and other charges for using the dating app Grindr to target gay men for violent crimes.
Daryl Henry, 24, pleaded guilty to a charge of committing a hate crime and another of conspiracy to commit a hate crime. Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon, 19, pleaded guilty to a charge of committing a hate crime, a second for carjacking and third charge for use of a firearm related to a violent crime, the Justice Department announced Friday.
According to court documents filed in connection with the two men’s guilty pleas, Henry and Ceniceros-Deleon admitted they used Grindr to target and lure gay men to a vacant apartment and other locations around Dallas to commit hate crimes, including robbing, carjacking or kidnapping their victims.
Henry admitted that he and others held the victims against their will in the vacant apartment, while Ceniceros-Deleon confessed that he and others used local ATMs to withdraw cash from the victims’ accounts. The two men also taunted their victims about their sexual orientation.
Ceniceros-Deleon also admitted that he was the gunman in a 2017 carjacking in which he and others used Grindr to target a gay man. They then forced the man at gunpoint to drive to local ATMs.
“Kidnappings, carjackings, thefts, sexual assaults, and armed, violent attacks against innocent people are heinous crimes, and when perpetrators commit those crimes against victims because of their sexual orientation, the U.S. Department of Justice will continue zealously to seek justice for the victims and to punish the perpetrators to the full extent of the law,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division said.
“Prosecuting those who commit such monstrous acts because of victims’ sexual orientation is a priority of the Department of Justice," he added, "and we will continue to bring to justice anyone who commits such hateful, violent crimes.”
Local officials noted that the case was not the first time Grindr had been used to target gay men and urged the public to be wary of online interactions.
“These defendants used Grindr to single out their victim(s) based on sexual orientation — something the Northern District of Texas simply will not tolerate,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox said. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time a dating app user has fallen victim to a violent crime. I’m urging the public to be vigilant about the dangers lurking online.”
Ceniceros-Deleon, who faces up to 30 years behind bars, is scheduled to be sentenced on April 1. No sentencing date has been set for Henry, who faces up to 15 years in prison.