A man from Miami has pleaded guilty to 17 counts related to kidnapping and robbing gay men he targeted on the Grindr dating app. Stevenson Charles, 21, is said to have committed the crimes over a two-week period in October and November 2022.
Court documents show that Charles targeted five different victims who he met through Grindr. He invited them to his home or a prearranged location, where he then pulled out a gun and demanded money and other items. In one instance, Charles had a victim drive to ATMs to withdraw over $1,000 and hand it over to him.
During another robbery, Charles demanded the victim’s cellphone and then beat him with a gun. He forced the man to drive him to retail pharmacy stores and purchase items using the victim’s credit card. In a separate case, Charles told a victim that he hated gay people before forcing him to drive to a couple’s home and demanding money from them.
Charles then had the group drive to ATMs, take out over $1,500 from their accounts, and give it to him. He subsequently stole their phones before leaving with the victim he had met on Grindr.
When they arrived at a secluded area near some railroad tracks, Charles shot the man several times. He even shot the man once in the head. Despite being injured, the victim was able to call 911 and survived. Charles was later arrested in Georgia.
Charles faces life imprisonment when he is sentenced in April. Following the case, Frank Fernandez, a crime and safety expert who spent more than 30 years in law enforcement in South Florida, said people must apply simple safety rules when communicating with anyone through social media.
He recommended meeting in public places and bringing a friend to the first meeting. Fernandez also advised people to be cautious about what they share online and to never disclose personal information to strangers. Grindr provides safety tips on its website, including meeting in public or safe spaces.