Man charged over chilling New York City gay bar murders
A suspect has been arrested in connection with a set of murders following visits to New York gay bars in 2022.
Thirty-year-old Jacob Barroso has been charged with murder, among several other charges, connected to the death of 25-year-old social worker Julio Ramirez and 33-year-old political consultant John Umberger.
The two victims were respectively coerced into leaving New York gay clubs, where Barroso, along with suspects Jayqwan Hamilton and Robert Demalo, allegedly drugged, robbed and killed them.
Barroso surrendered to police on Sunday (2 April), but both Hamilton and Demalo have reportedly evaded arrests at the time of reporting.
Both Ramirez and Umberger were found dead in early 2022 on separate nights, after their bank accounts were drained via facial recognition on their phones, according to family members.
Umberger’s body was reportedly found on the fifth floor of an Upper East Side townhouse at his place of work on 28 May 2022.
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His phone and credit card were missing, and it was later discovered that over $25,000 had been transferred out of his bank account.
Ramirez’s body was found in a similar state in the back of a taxi weeks earlier, in the early hours of 21 April 2022.
His account had been emptied of nearly $20,000 through payment apps such as PayPal and Venmo.
Months later, medical examiners ruled the deaths as homicides due to the number of drugs found in their systems at the time.
According to New York law enforcement sources reported by NBC News, a Manhattan grand jury has indicted several suspects in connection with the deaths.
One of them, Shane Hoskins, was charged with identity theft and grand larceny on Friday (31 March).
Other suspects connected to the crime have allegedly targeted victims for financial gain, but law enforcement claimed they were not specifically targeting LGBTQ+ people.
According to an indictment connected with the case, victims would be “incapacitated to the extent that their ability to perceive events became diminished”.
Suspects would then steal valuables, credit cards and mobile phones, using recognition software to drain their bank accounts.
Grindr crimes in London
Crimes similar to this are especially prevalent on dating apps such as Grindr, since many users on the app remain anonymous for fear of being outed.
A recent high-profile case in London saw two thieves drug and rob men who they had met through Grindr.
Metropolitan Police reported that several men were victims of drug-enabled burglaries in London between 31 December 2022 and 9 January 2023. Two suspects, who are now believed to have fled the country, would ask men they had met through the app to meet with them, where they would proceed to drug and rob them.
Officials urged users to stay vigilant on the app to ensure they are safe when meeting with people for the first time.
They recommended precautions such as reverse image searching a profile picture or informing a friend of a planned meetup.
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