DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – A 24-year-old Dallas man pleaded guilty Thursday to kidnapping and conspiracy charges in connection with his involvement in a scheme using Grindr to target gay men for violent crimes.
“Michael Atkinson targeted the victims in this case because of their sexual orientation. Hate crimes affect not only the victims, but also have a devastating impact on their families and an entire community,” said Michael Schneider, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Dallas Division
According to his plea papers, Atkinson admitted to joining a conspiracy to use Grindr, a social media dating platform, to lure gay men to areas around Dallas, including a vacant apartment, for robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, and hate crimes.
On Dec. 11, 2017, Atkinson reached out to one co-conspirator and asked to join the conspiracy.
Following the conversation, Atkinson brought a loaded handgun to a vacant apartment where the victims were being held captive. Upon arriving, Atkinson learned that a co-conspirator had sexually assaulted at least one of the victims and that a co-conspirator had wiped human feces and urinated on another victim.
Atkinson remained with the conspirators and allowed a co-conspirator to use his handgun to hold victims in the apartment against their will. Atkinson and a co-conspirator then took one of the victims at gunpoint to the victim’s home in an attempt to steal the victim’s property.
According to the plea papers, Atkinson witnessed a co-conspirator assault one victim and call the victim gay slurs. In addition, Atkinson admitted to going to local ATMs to withdraw cash from the victims’ accounts.
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.