News (USA)

3 men drugged & robbed of thousands after leaving gay bar

a man beaten in the street, passed out
Photo: Shutterstock

The New York Police Department confirmed last week that three more men were incapacitated and robbed after visiting a gay bar in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood.

NBC News reports that the three men visited The Eagle NYC on separate nights in October and November. Police say the robbers likely lured the men away from the bar with promises of drugs or after parties, then used the facial recognition software on the victims’ phones to access their accounts and steal between $1,000 and $5,000 from each of them once they were incapacitated.

“What we think is happening with this scheme is they’re being lured away from the club, maybe to say, ‘Hey, you wanna come with me? I got some good drugs,’ or something like that,” Capt. Robert Gault of the city’s 10th Precinct said at a community council meeting. “And then, once they get into a car to do whatever it is that they’re going to do, at some point or another, they don’t know what happened when they wake up.”

Police say the same criminals are responsible for two other robberies of a male and female victim who visited another NYC bar, Hotel Chantelle, on separate occasions in November and December. However, authorities say these five robberies are unconnected to the deaths of Julio Ramirez and John Umberger.

Both Ramirez and Umberger were found dead after leaving Hell’s Kitchen gay bars with unidentified strangers in separate incidents last year. Both victims’ bank accounts were also drained using facial recognition software on their phones. In November, the NYPD confirmed that Ramirez and Umberger’s deaths were being investigated along with several other incidents in which victims were robbed or assaulted.

“Interestingly, the NYPD is confirming that the newer cases are not related to those cases from last year, which tells us that this method and technique of using facial ID technology to hack into people’s phones and steal their funds is being used and sort of copied by different groups of criminals,” NBC News’ Matt Lavietes said.

During a New York City Office of Nightlife webinar last week, officials advised LGBTQ+ bar patrons against using facial recognition tech to lock their phones.

Last month, The Eagle NYC posted images from security footage of two men outside the bar on its official Instagram, warning patrons, “Do not take rides from these guys. We are told that they have someone in a car (around nearby street corners) waiting for these guys to bring someone.” The since-deleted post also noted that the bar had “reported the known offenders to appropriate authorities.”

No arrests have been made in any of the cases.

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