Daryl Henry, 24, and Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon, 19, pleaded guilty yesterday to a federal hate crime and other charges in connection with their involvement in a scheme to target gay men for violent crimes.
Daryl Henry pleaded guilty to one count of 18 U.S.C. § 249 (hate crime act) and one count of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, and carjacking). Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon pleaded guilty to one count of 18 U.S.C. § 249 (hate crime act), one count of 18 U.S.C. § 2119 (carjacking), and one count of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) (use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence).
“Kidnappings, carjackings, thefts, sexual assaults, and armed, violent attacks against innocent people are heinous crimes, and when perpetrators commit those crimes against victims because of their sexual orientation, the U.S. Department of Justice will continue zealously to seek justice for the victims and to punish the perpetrators to the full extent of the law,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division. “Prosecuting those who commit such monstrous acts because of victims’ sexual orientation is a priority of the Department of Justice, and we will continue to bring to justice anyone who commits such hateful, violent crimes.”
“These defendants used Grindr to single out their victim based on sexual orientation – something the Northern District of Texas simply will not tolerate,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox for the Northern District of Texas. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time a dating app user has fallen victim to a violent crime. I’m urging the public to be vigilant about the dangers lurking online.”
“One of the FBI’s top priorities is to defend the civil rights of the communities we serve. We actively work with our law enforcement partners to investigate hate crimes and achieve justice for the victims impacted by these violent crimes,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno. “The victims in this case were specifically targeted because of their sexual orientation. The FBI wants to reassure the public that we will pursue individuals who commit violent hate acts against any member of our community.”
According to court documents filed in connection with their guilty pleas, both Henry and Ceniceros-Deleon admitted Grindr was used, a social media dating platform primarily used by gay men, to lure gay men to a vacant apartment and other areas in and around Dallas for robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, and hate crimes. Henry admitted that he and others held the victims against their will in the vacant apartment. Ceniceros-Deleon admitted that he and others traveled to local ATMs to withdraw cash from the victims’ accounts. Both Henry and Ceniceros-Deleon admitted that while the victims were being held captive they were subjected to taunts based upon the co-conspirators’ perception of the men’s sexual orientation.
In addition, Ceniceros-Deleon admitted to being the gunman in a Dec. 7, 2017, carjacking where he and others used Grindr to lure a man to a location and then forced the man, at gunpoint, to drive the conspirators to local ATMs to withdraw cash from the man’s account.
In March of 2019, Michael Atkinson pleaded guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping charges in connection with this case. Atkinson will be sentenced in February of 2020. Sentencing for Ceniceros-Deleon is set for April 1, 2020. The court has not set a sentencing hearing for Henry.
The FBI’s Dallas Field Office conducted the federal investigation; a separate criminal investigation is being conducted by the Dallas Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Dana of the Northern District of Texas along with Special Litigation Counsel Rose E. Gibson and Trial Attorney Kathryn Gilbert of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.