Armed robbery suspects targeted LGBTQ+ victims through dating apps, Orlando police say

Detectives asking other victims to come forward

Armed robbery suspects targeted LGBTQ+ victims through dating apps, Orlando police say
Armed robbery suspects targeted LGBTQ+ victims through dating apps, Orlando police say

ORLANDO, Fla. – A man and a teen are charged with hate crimes after Orlando police say they carried out a series of robberies in the Millenia area and in some cases targeted members of the LGBTQ+ community.

According to a statement from the Orlando Police Department, at least eight armed robberies and one kidnapping occurred between June and mid-July. The crimes took place in several housing complexes, police said, including The Fountains at Millenia, The Place at Millenia, Glen on Millenia, Century Millenia, the Villages on Millenia, Aria at Millenia, Northbridge on Millenia Lake and Ridge Club.

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Detectives with the Violent Crimes Section arrested an 18-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy this week, but officials said they are not releasing their names because it’s possible there are more victims who will need to identify their attackers.

According to the investigation, the suspects set up meetings with their victims under false pretenses either to make a transaction or just to “meet up.” The victims were contacted through apps including Snapchat, OfferUp, Craigslist, Letgo and in four cases, the suspects found victims through LGBTQ+ dating sites including Grindr and Sniffies.

Sgt. Mike Massicotte, with the Orlando Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit, said during one of the robberies, “one of the suspects actually did say, ‘This is what you get for doing that gay (expletive).’”

Armed robbery suspects targeted LGBTQ+ victims through dating apps, Orlando police say
Armed robbery suspects targeted LGBTQ+ victims through dating apps, Orlando police say

Because they targeted the gay community, the suspects face hate crimes, according to OPD.

“That tripped the trigger for us to be able to mark it as a hate crime. We will now go backwards and all the other social dating websites that have that same feel, will also be labeled as a hate crime because of that,” Massicotte added.

“The suspects targeted victims wishing to conceal their identity and activities, knowing they would likely not report the robberies,” Orlando police said in a news release.

Massicotte stressed that any victims who do not want their identity divulged do not need to press charges.

“They do not need to press charges but I do need to know their story, so I can fill in all the blanks of all the incidents that were missing on these individuals,” he said.

When the suspects met up with the victims, detectives said they threatened them with a replica firearm and then stole tablets, cellphones and credit cards. Police said some of the victims were instructed to transfer cash to the suspects’ accounts from mobile banking and payment apps.

“Two cases are actually folks that were out of state, out of county, out of the area who were staying in hotels. The suspects actually paid for Uber rides to their hotel to pick them up and bring them back to the crime scenes,” Massicotte said.

Detectives believe there could be more victims but they might be afraid to come forward.

Anyone with information or who was victimized in the Millenia area can call Crimeline anonymously at 1-800-423-TIPS (8477) or contact OPD detectives directly at 407-246-2927.

Check back for updates on this developing story.


About the Authors:

Emilee is a digital journalist for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com, where she writes about space and Central Florida news. Emilee hosts the Edward R. Murrow Award-winning podcast Space Curious. Previously, she was a space writer and web editor for the Orlando Sentinel and a web producer at the Naples Daily News.

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.