Man who used Grindr to lure gay men to apartment to assault, rob them pleads guilty

One of two men accused of using Grindr to lure gay men to a vacant apartment in Dallas where they’d be beaten, robbed and sexually assaulted has pleaded guilty, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.

Michael Atkinson, 24, pleaded guilty on Thursday to kidnapping and conspiracy charges in connection with his involvement in the scheme.

The victims in the case — nine of them — range in age from 19 to 57.

Atkinson and Daniel Jenkins, 19, are accused of using Grindr to create fake profiles, posing as gay men and luring men to a vacant apartment at the Solana Ridge Apartment complex in the 8000 block of Chariot Drive in East Dallas. Jenkins would meet the men at their cars and then invite them inside, according to an indictment that was unsealed in January.

The document says that during the first two weeks of December 2017, Jenkins and Atkinson pointed guns at some of the men and beat them. At least one man was sexually assaulted with an object, according to the indictment.

In another instance, one man was urinated on and feces were wiped on him, according to the indictment.

The men were robbed of their wallets, cars, cell phones, identification and other personal documents, the indictment says.

On Dec. 7, one victim was forced at gunpoint to drive to an ATM. On Dec. 11, according to the indictment, Atkinson went to one of the victims’ homes to steal property.

Both men were arrested in August.

Jenkins has pleaded not guilty and a trial date is set for the end of September.

“The Northern District of Texas will not tolerate criminals who single out victims based on their sexual orientation,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time we’ve seen despicable crimes committed on apps like Grindr. I want to urge the public to be vigilant online and recognize the dangers that are lurking there.”

Atkinson faces a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison for the kidnapping charge and five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, and a fine of up to $250,000 with respect to each offense.

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Nichole Manna is an investigative reporter for the Star-Telegram. Before moving to Fort Worth in July 2018, she covered crime and breaking news in Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska and Kansas. She is a 2012 graduate of Middle Tennessee State University and grew up in Florida.