A Miami resident is facing federal charges for allegedly holding victims at gunpoint in two robberies after targeting the men on the dating app Grindr.
The FBI alleges Stevenson Charles used the popular gay dating application to lure the victims to Miami residences, and when they showed up, he whipped out a gun and demanded cash. He was arrested in Georgia last month and extradited to Miami-Dade County on federal carjacking and firearm charges.
The first incident was in late October when an unidentified man agreed to meet up at Charles' home on Northwest 25th Avenue, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the Southern District of Florida. After bringing the man inside, Charles allegedly pulled out a gun and forced him to hand over his cell phone.
"[The] victim, in fear for his life, and in an attempt to get out of the residence, told Charles that he would drive him to a bank and withdraw money for him," the affidavit reads.
The man told law enforcement he drove Charles in his 2021 Honda to Wells Fargo and Bank of America to withdraw $380 and $760, respectively. Charles allegedly kept the gun pointed at him during the car ride.
After the victim turned over the cash, the affidavit says, Charles took the driver's seat and dumped the victim off at a random highway exit before fleeing in the man's vehicle. The victim walked to a nearby gas station to call the police, according to the FBI.
The affidavit notes that Charles was on probation and "being monitored by the Miami-Dade County Corrections Boot Camp Program" at the time. His ankle monitor location history corroborated the victim's account of the robbery, the FBI says. Probation records cited in the affidavit suggest Charles removed the ankle monitor after the incident.
Charles allegedly targeted another man on Grindr last month.
On November 2, the second victim received a message from Charles on the app and drove to an address Charles provided on Northwest 72nd Terrace, a residence linked to Charles' "known female associate," the FBI says. When the victim arrived, Charles jumped into the back of the man's new Toyota, brandishing a gun, the court documents state.
"Charles appeared to notice police cars that were nearby and ordered [the] victim to drive," the affidavit says.
Because the man did not speak English fluently, Charles made his demands via an automated cellphone translator, according to the FBI.
Charles directed the victim to drive to the parking garage of the victim's apartment building, where he ordered the man into the backseat and "struck [him] several times about the head and body" with the gun, the affidavit alleges. The FBI claims that while rifling through the victim's phone, Charles saw pictures of him with other men, at which point Charles struck the victim again and said, "I'm going to kill all of you," according to the affidavit.
After the victim was unable to withdraw money from a local bank, Charles drove to Walgreens stores and used the man's Apple card to buy two $500 gift cards, a Mountain Dew, and a bottle of water, according to the affidavit. Charles left the victim in the car, threatening to kill the bruised and beaten man if he tried to flee while Charles was on his shopping spree, the FBI claims.
Charles left the car running while he was inside one of the stores, and the victim took the opportunity to jump in the driver's seat and drive away.
Investigators say they found Charles' fingerprints on the Apple card and verified his identity by showing his probation officer surveillance footage from the property where Charles met the second victim.
In recent years, schemes in which criminals target users of quick-dating apps like Grindr and Tinder have made headlines across the country.
Atlanta police warned last year about a wave of robberies
in which thieves targeted eight gay men using Grindr. This past April, a Compton, California, man was charged with robbing 20 men
he had lured on the app over a three-year period.
Miami police's own top brass haven't been immune to the spate of Grindr theft. Local police union president Tommy Reyes
was allegedly pilfered and blackmailed in January by a Grindr date while at a Hampton Inn in Tallahassee.