Two separate gangs had been apparently preying on each straight and homosexual club-goers in Manhattan, from the Decrease East Aspect to Hell’s Kitchen, for months — drugging after which robbing them by way of their telephones — earlier than it grew to become clear it was a sample, among the victims’ dad and mom advised The Put up.
Cops are investigating no less than 43 incidents that passed off all around the metropolis between September 2021 and December 2022. Ten males with prolonged rap sheets have been recognized as a part of one gang and 5 within the different one, police sources advised The Put up. A variety of them are reportedly from the Farragut Homes in Brooklyn.
Up-and-coming dressmaker Kathryn “Katie” Gallagher was among the many victims of one of many two gangs, police mentioned. The 35-year-old, who dressed Girl Gaga and different celebrities, was discovered lifeless of an overdose in her Eldridge Road house final 12 months. On March 24, cops publicly declared her dying a murder.
Six members of 1 gang who preyed on homosexual males at Hell’s Kitchen nightclubs had been indicted final week for the so-called “roofie” murders of John Umberger, 33, and Julio Ramirez, 25, final 12 months.
Late Friday, police mentioned they had been looking for three members of 1 crew, Jayquan Hamilton, 35, Robert DeMaio, 34, each of Brooklyn, and Jacob Barroso, 30, of Harlem, in reference to the deaths of Umberger and Ramirez.
However properly earlier than the indictments, the daddy of a person who survived being drugged and robbed after being at a homosexual membership went to the police with proof, together with digital receipts, from his son’s telephone.
“It appeared actually clear by what I might see that this was extra of an organized prison enterprise than a one-off crime,” the daddy, who needed to stay nameless to make sure his son’s privateness, advised The Put up. “However they sat on it. We knew it was one thing larger so it was irritating when nothing was executed.”
Linda Clary, Umberger’s mom, mentioned extra individuals got here ahead once they heard about different victims, however that it took some time for anybody to understand that there have been organized prison rings at work.
Normally, the victims left bars with their assailants and had been robbed after passing out from being drugged, or “roofied.” Whilst they had been unconscious, the suspects used facial recognition know-how to unlock victims’ telephones after which drained their financial institution accounts.
The one suspect arrested up to now is Andre Butts, 28, who was caught utilizing Ramirez’s bank card to purchase two pairs of Nikes for $544.38 not lengthy after Ramirez was discovered lifeless in a taxi in April 2022. Butts’ legal professional, Terrence J. Grifferty, didn’t return calls from The Put up.
“I believe the police division and the mayor’s workplace knew that one thing like this was occurring and so they didn’t need to speak about it as a result of New York was simply popping out of the pandemic and folks had been going out once more and so they didn’t need to scare them off,” Clary mentioned.
“The town has offered the right surroundings for this type of crime to turn into rampant with so many [criminals] allowed again on the road irrespective of how lengthy their rap sheets.”
Each dad and mom mentioned police appeared to initially downplay the incidents, as in the event that they had been unintentional overdoses or, within the case of 1 younger man who survived being drugged and robbed, that he had perhaps “fallen asleep” after which been robbed.
“Who falls asleep in your house with two strangers there?” the daddy mentioned.
Warrants had been issued March 24 for the arrest of three of the lads within the crew working within the Hell’s Kitchen space for first-degree homicide, whereas all six males have been hit with prices of grand larceny and first-degree theft in addition to conspiracy to drug and rob no less than a dozen victims.
Umberger, 33, and Ramirez, 25, died from “acute intoxication” from a mixture of fentanyl, cocaine, ethanol and different medicine, town Medical Examiner discovered on March 3.
Each males had been victims of homicides attributable to “drug-facilitated thefts,” after leaving the Q NYC and Ritz Bar and Lounge homosexual nightclubs, the ME discovered.
The town health worker decided that Gallagher died from acute intoxication from the mixed results of fentanyl, ethanol and the designer opioid p-Fluorofentanyl.
Umberger, a Washington, DC, political marketing consultant, disappeared on Saturday, Might 28, 2022, after an evening out at The Q NYC, a homosexual nightclub at 795 Eighth Ave., whereas visiting New York for work.
His bank card was used round 3 a.m. on the membership and he was final seen an hour in a while a surveillance digital camera, with three unidentified males in a automotive exterior the Higher East Aspect townhouse the place he was staying.
His physique was discovered there 4 days later, on June 1.
Umberger’s cellphone and bank cards had been lacking. Greater than $25,000 had been transferred out of his accounts by way of money apps on his telephone equivalent to Venmo and PayPal.
5 weeks earlier, on Thursday, April 21, and in related circumstances, Ramirez, a Brooklyn social employee, was discovered lifeless at the back of a taxi on the Decrease East Aspect at about 4 am.
An hour earlier he had been captured by a safety digital camera with three unidentified males leaving the Ritz Bar and Lounge, a homosexual membership on West forty sixth Road, two blocks from Q NYC.
Like Umberger, Ramirez’s telephone and pockets had been lacking, and his financial institution accounts had been emptied of about $20,000 by way of apps equivalent to Venmo and Zelle; later, his bank cards had been maxed out on costly dinners and spa providers.
Based on sources conversant in the investigation, one gang operated primarily in Decrease Manhattan whereas the opposite targeted each on Decrease Manhattan and Midtown. They used related strategies to befriend after which drug and rob their victims, however authorities reportedly however don’t imagine the 2 crews are associated.
One gang selected sure areas “as a result of there are a variety of handsome ladies there.”
The 2 gangs are believed to have been concerned in no less than 43 separate incidents.
A drag performer named Jaé, who performs frequently on the Ritz on forty sixth Road the place Ramirez evidently met the lads who drugged him, advised The Put up Thursday night time that everybody there is aware of what occurred to Ramires and is conscious of the hazard in golf equipment — however she nonetheless feels secure.
Clutching a Lengthy Island iced tea in a single hand whereas she stood by the bar and spoke over a Dice Guys remix of “I Wanna Dance with Someone,” Jaé mentioned the Ritz is her “residence bar” and her “remedy.”
“I’ve all the time been cautious each time I’m out and about even earlier than all this,” she mentioned. “I maintain my drinks after I’m out as a result of you possibly can’t simply belief who’s round you. You’re round strangers and also you don’t know what their intentions are. Simply be secure … However don’t cease going out and having enjoyable.”
A Youtuber named Sky Santana who was standing close to the now-shuttered Q membership Thursday night time mentioned she believed that solely homosexual individuals had been being focused and mentioned she didn’t imagine stories that straight clubgoers are additionally being victimized.
“They’re going after the LGBTQ neighborhood, they’re going after us,” she mentioned.
Police sources mentioned, nonetheless, that sexual orientation will not be believed to be a part of the gangs’ MO — simply cash.
A bouncer at one other homosexual membership in Hell’s Kitchen on Ninth Avenue, who requested to stay nameless, mentioned he and different membership workers preserve their eyes on clients always and don’t allow them to go into the toilet collectively or depart drinks unattended.
“We watching,” he mentioned.
Added the daddy of the younger man who survived being drugged and robbed: “Everybody on the market ought to re-consider whether or not unlocking your telephone together with your face is a good suggestion.”
Extra reporting by Joe Marino