A Compton man used Grindr to target and rob more than 20 gay men, prosecutors say

A Compton man has been accused of using the hookup site Grindr to lure more than 20 gay men on dates that have been matched by robberies, sometimes at knifepoint, over the past two years, according to an unsealed indictment Monday.

Derrick Patterson, 24, was charged with more than 30 counts of burglary, theft, grand theft and assault, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. Patterson pleaded guilty last year to federal charges stemming from similar behavior, but media attention surrounding his arrest prompted other victims to come forward, according to Deputy Dist. Atty. Richard Ceballos.

The robberies took place between March 2020 and March 2022, ending just weeks before Patterson was arrested in Inglewood last year. In at least two incidents, Patterson attacked his victims with a knife, prosecutors allege.

Ceballos said Patterson used a profile with a different person’s picture to arrange hookups with men at her home. He often told his victims he needed to use their cell phones to watch porn to get aroused, Ceballos said. Once he had access to their phones, Patterson would use payment apps like Venmo to send money to himself or send money to the accounts of other victims whose phones he had stolen, according to Ceballos.

“When victims started getting alerts on their credit card, Venmo, PayPal, a lot of those transactions were going through other victims,” ​​he said.

Sometimes Patterson would order the men to leave their doors open and wait for him in a bedroom, then begin ransacking their homes. In cases where victims realized Patterson’s intentions were criminal rather than sexual, Ceballos said, he would threaten them or claim he had accomplices waiting outside who would damage their homes if they didn’t comply.

Ceballos filed a hate crime enhancement against Patterson, noting that he would specifically target gay victims because he believed they were “soft targets” and sometimes used anti-gay slurs during the attacks. In some cases, Patterson would have sex with the victims and steal money using their phones during intercourse, Ceballos said.

Federal prosecutors announced Patterson’s arrest in April and filed charges against 21 victims, but only five of those victims filed charges that fell within federal jurisdiction, according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the DA’s office of the US in Los Angeles, which said its office was open. closely with LA County prosecutors.

Patterson eventually received a nine-year federal prison sentence as part of a plea deal. He was taken out of federal custody in Los Angeles for an arraignment last week, where he pleaded not guilty. If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 60 years in prison, Ceballos said.

Ceballos also expressed frustration with Grindr. He said the app did not respond after several victims raised security concerns about Patterson’s account and claimed that when police obtained a search warrant for information on Paterson’s account, the app said that he had nothing to deliver.

While not directly addressing Ceballos’ complaints, a Grindr spokesperson said the company takes all reports of abuse seriously and cooperates with law enforcement.

“We encourage users to be careful when interacting with people they don’t know,” said spokesman Patrick Lenihan. “We encourage our users to report inappropriate or illegal behavior within the app.”

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