FBI arrests suspect in Grindr robbery Los Angeles

JS met Derrick Patterson at the March Grinder, a gay sex site, and invited him to his room at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.

Shortly after he arrived, Patterson asked if he could watch porn on JS’s mobile phone, according to the FBI. JS gave him the phone, but he soon suspected Patterson was intentionally locking himself out of the device.

He wanted to see JS typed into the four digit passcode – the same JS passcode used for online banking.

The confrontation soon soured: Patterson threatened to shoot JS and steal his phone and wallet, FBI agent George Maloney alleged in court papers. Within hours, Patterson began draining JS’s accounts, making $600 in ATM withdrawals and taking $1,800 from Venmo and $2,000 from Zelle, the agent said.

It was the 21st time in just over two years that Patterson, 22, had stolen men who viewed his Grindr profile and invited him to their homes or hotel rooms for sex in Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, according to the government.

FBI agents arrested Patterson in Englewood Monday for federal burglary. His attorney, Adithia Mane, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The case is a cautionary tale of the risks people take when they open the door for strangers to hook up based on a few photos and a quick online chat.

It also highlights the security risks of smartphones when they are stolen by a thief who knows the passcode. More recently, last week, Maloney said, Patterson was still charging a Lyft ride for the victim who was accused of stealing her phone in August 2021.

Patterson, who lives in Compton, threatened some of the men with a gun, knife or taser, according to court documents. The victims told the police that they feared he would kill them. According to the FBI, one of them was hit in the back of the head, and another was wounded in the chest with a kitchen knife.

Derek Patterson's driver's license photo

Driver’s license photo of Derek Patterson, the suspect in 21 burglaries of a man he met in Grindr, according to the FBI.

(US District Court)

Several victims told authorities they believed Patterson was targeting gays as a hate crime. Someone identified anti-gay slur. Some also said that Patterson watched pornography live on their phones at the start of their encounters.

In an application for court approval for an arrest and a search warrant, Maloney said he was seeking evidence not only of theft, extortion and fraud, but also of causing bodily injury due to sexual orientation.

The 21 robberies were detailed in a 38-page statement by Maloney that prosecutors filed in US District Court. The victims were identified only by their initials. All of them met Patterson on Grindr.

The first burglary took place in November 2019 at 120th Street in Los Angeles. When the victim refused to give him money, Patterson sprayed him in the face with pepper spray, hit him in the face with the can, grabbed him by the neck, punched him in the face and sprayed him with pepper, the FBI agent alleged.

The agent wrote that during an October 2020 burglary on Wilcox Street in Los Angeles, an Amazon security camera in the kitchen caught Patterson searching the apartment and threatening the victim with a stun gun.

Video screenshot of an Amazon security camera showing a man activating a stun gun.

The FBI says this screenshot from an Amazon security camera video shows Derek Patterson activating a stun gun during a burglary in October 2020.

(US District Court)

Two weeks later, Patterson threatened another victim with an electric shock at the man’s home on Reading Street in Los Angeles, according to the FBI.

“I’m not leaving here without any money,” Patterson reportedly told the victim.

Terrified, the victim went to the bathroom and called the police. Officers found Patterson hiding under a car parked outside, but he escaped, according to court documents. After a while, Patterson’s police dog was found in the victim’s front yard, and the Los Angeles police arrested him.

By that time, Patterson had committed eight of the 21 Grindr robberies, yet he had been “released from custody,” an unexplained FBI affidavit said.

There was no immediate comment from spokesmen for the Los Angeles police and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office.

The FBI suspected Patterson was working with at least one partner. In a January 2022 burglary at a Hollywood Boulevard apartment, Patterson refused to return the victim’s phone after it asked to use it to watch porn, telling the man, “I’ll shoot you if you don’t ‘give me some money,'” Maloney said.

The victim screamed for help and offered to take Patterson to an ATM, according to court documents. Patterson called someone on the phone and said, “He said he’s going to take me to the ATM, but he has to get dressed first. I’ll keep you posted.”

Patterson left with the victim’s phone. The man told the FBI that he believed Patterson was able to gain control of the phone by setting up a face ID to match his face.

Maloney said the victim eventually regained access to his iCloud account, and found about 300 photos and videos that Patterson had taken, including driver’s license and Social Security card photos of other victims.

Times James Queally and Kevin Rector contributed to this report.