‘Nasty and spineless’ scammer who used Grindr to blackmail dozens of men jailed

Mugshot of Anouar Sabbar

A “nasty and spineless” scammer targeted vulnerable men on Grindr to blackmail hundreds of pounds has been jailed for five years.

Anouar Sabbar, a 28-year-old from the south London neighbourhood Southwark, swindled at least £2,360 between April 2019 and June 2021 from dating app users.

After having consensual sex, Sabbar would pretend to be an escort and demand money for the visit, according to the Metropolitan Police Service, London’s force.

His playbook included threatening his bilked victims with beatings and stabbings or outing them to their girlfriends in order to squeeze them.

“They are coming,” he warned one victim. “I didn’t want to do this to you, but it looks like we will have to break your face.”

Heartless Grindr fraudster threatened to beat victims until they paid him hundreds

Anouar Sabbar would swiftly block his victims on Grindr after pressing the cash, automatically deleting his online exchanges with the target.

He pleaded guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London to robbery, theft, five counts of blackmail and five counts of fraud on Thursday (20 January).

Across his at least nine victims, aged between 25 to 57, Sabbar would show them his updated Grindr profile following sex. Now, his bio would state that he is a sex worker charging £180-per-hour.

During one incident, Sabbar threatened to tell the victim’s girlfriend about their sexual hook-up if they refused to pay up. If not, he would disclose their chat history and photographs to her.

By regularly swapping his SIM cards and mobile phone number as well as changing his haircut, he managed to avoid being traced.

But when a victim in Tower Hamlets identified Sabbar as a suspect, authorities last year pieced together the patchwork of phone numbers, addresses, aliases and usernames together to track the perpetrator down.

Grindr on an Apple iPhone

Grindr on an Apple iPhone. (Getty/MARTIN BUREAU)

The manhunt began. When a colleague of Sabbar gave the cops his current mobile number, officers called him and Sabbar swore at them, telling them they would never catch him.

Until they did. Through intelligence checks, officers tracked down another address for Sabbar in Southwark.

Detective inspector Arif Sharif praised the “brave” victims for coming forward in a statement before urging other victims of Sabbar to come forward.

“Sabbar is a nasty and spineless individual who used Grindr to target victims and used their vulnerabilities against them,” he said.

“There may be others who were exploited by Sabbar who until now have felt unable to tell anyone.

“Please get in touch with us – we are here to listen to you and will take what you say incredibly seriously. You will be treated with sensitivity and in confidence.”

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, fraudsters have increasingly exploited lovelorn dating app users to trick them out of money, with the average loss per victim being £7,850, banking trade association UK Finance found.

According to Action Fraud, a reporting centre for cyber scams, bank transfer romance fraud surged by 20 per cent in 2020.

But for those who find themselves or someone they know ensnared by such a scam, Sharif stressed that there are many things victims can do.

“In situations such as this, the Met is focused on the motive and behaviour of the offender, rather than the behaviour of the victim,” Sharif added.

“I would therefore urge anyone who has been a victim of crime following a meet on Grindr or similar platforms to speak to us directly quoting Op Fardella.

“Alternatively contact us through a third party support group such as Galop or reach out 100 per cent anonymously using the independent charity Crimestoppers.”