Man who used Grindr to target robbery victims pleads guilty

Man who used Grindr to target robbery victims pleads guilty

The men’s stories followed a similar pattern: They met a date found on the LGBTQ hookup app Grindr, he would ask to borrow their phones, then would erupt in threats and violence before robbing them, according to federal prosecutors.

Derrick Patterson, 23, of Compton pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal criminal charges for robbing men he met over Grindr from June 2021 to March 2022.

The victims said Patterson met them at their homes or hotel rooms for sexual encounters, then would ask to borrow their phones before threatening and robbing them.

Patterson hit one victim in the back of the head and gashed the chest of another with a knife, prosecutors said in a criminal indictment. He used a homophobic slur during one robbery and, according to court records, told a victim, “You b— are all the same.”

Patterson grabbed a knife from one man’s kitchen and during another robbery threatened a man with a stun gun, according to court records and FBI agents.

In one of the most recent robberies detailed by prosecutors, a man described in court records as J.S. met Patterson at a hotel room at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. Shortly after his arrival, Patterson asked if he could watch porn on J.S.’ mobile phone, according to the FBI. J.S. gave him the phone and soon suspected that Patterson was intentionally locking himself out of the device. Patterson wanted to watch J.S. type in the four-digit passcode — the same code J.S. used for online banking.

The encounter quickly soured: Patterson threatened to shoot J.S. and stole his phone and wallet, FBI agent George Maloney alleged in court papers. Within hours, Patterson started draining J.S.’ accounts, making $600 in ATM withdrawals and taking $1,800 by Venmo and $2,000 by Zelle, the agent said.

In June 2021, prosecutors said, Patterson stole about $780 in cryptocurrency and $700 from a checking account using a man’s phone.

In another encounter, Patterson threatened a man with a knife and demanded his wallet. Patterson then used the victim’s bank account to book hotel rooms and stole nearly $4,000 from his Venmo account, prosecutors said. He texted the victim’s friends and family to send the victim money, which he planned to intercept, according to court records.

In February 2022, Patterson wielded a stun gun to rob a man and used the victim’s phone to open a line of credit with Goldman Sachs, prosecutors said. Patterson then went to a T-Mobile store in Los Angeles and used the line of credit to buy a pair of Apple AirPods.

When Patterson was arrested in April, prosecutors said, he had targeted 21 victims over a two-year period. On Tuesday, Patterson pleaded guilty to one count of Hobbs Act robbery, defined as robbery that affects interstate commerce, and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Patterson’s sentencing is scheduled for September before U.S. District Judge John F. Walter. He faces a maximum sentence of 22 years in federal prison.

Times staff writer Michael Finnegan contributed to this report.

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