Hampton victim among those targeted in London-wide Grindr spiking spree

By Oliver Monk

28th May 2024 | Local News

The Met's investigation was supported by screenshots of conversations and urine samples provided by the victims. (Photo: Ollie G. Monk)
The Met's investigation was supported by screenshots of conversations and urine samples provided by the victims. (Photo: Ollie G. Monk)

An investigation by Met Police has led to a "significant" jail sentence of 11 years for a man who conspired to commit aggravated burglary, by drugging and stealing high-value possessions from four victims using the sleeping drug, zolpidem.

Officers pieced together that the defendant was targeting London's LGBTQ+ communities through the dating app Grindr after receiving multiple reports from victims across west London, including one in Hampton.

Brandon Conrado-Gamboa, a 30-year-old Colombian national of no fixed address in the UK, was sentenced on Friday, 24 May, for conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary.

His accomplice Nelson Alexander Escobar Porras is still wanted, and is believed to be in Barcelona, Spain. The Met and Crown Prosecution Service are working with Spanish Authorities to extradite Porras back to the UK.

The police have cited urine tests provided by victims soon after being spiked as "crucial" in securing the conviction.

Officers responded to reports from victims who were targeted through the dating app Grindr between 31 December 2022 and 9 January 2023 in Brentford, Hampton, Hounslow and Bromley. 

It was quickly discovered that Gamboa wasn't working alone, and he and his accomplice worked together using fake profiles to lure victims, drug them, and steal their possessions.

A compilation of CCTV footage, phone data and information from airlines were used to show how Gamboa and Porras meticulously planned their crimes and flew to England one day before their spree of offending commenced.

Police Constable Sade Kujore-Taylor, who led the investigation said: "Both men maliciously preyed on victims using a dating app and exploited their trust. My team worked long hours in a bid to gather evidence against Gamboa which led to the conviction."

The victims supported the investigation by providing screenshots of conversations using the dating app to help build a case against the defendant. 

The investigation team also found evidence of the pair attempting to sell the stolen goods.

Gamboa was apprehended at Gatwick Airport on 23 February .

One of the Met's LGBT+ leads, Detective Chief Inspector Dan O'Sullivan, said: "My team worked incredibly hard throughout this investigation, PC Sade Kujore-Taylor was rightly commended by the judge at sentencing for her diligence in such a complex investigation.

"We take all reports of spiking incredibly seriously and work closely with partners, such as Gallop, to build confidence with LGBT+ communities and encourage them to tell the police if they suspect they've been victim of crime.

The force say they are working with Drinkaware to educate officers on emerging trends within spiking to better understand how to support members of LGBT+ victims.

Karen Tyrell, CEO of the charity Drinkaware says, "Our research shows that LGBTQ+ adults are more likely to be 'physically threatened' and have 'police contact,' as a result of other peoples' drinking, compared to non-LGBTQ+ adults, highlighting their disproportionate vulnerability.

"The work of the police in tackling crimes that affect the LGBTQ+ community is really important and successful prosecutions help encourage people to come forward, and report if they have been a victim of a crime, like drink spiking."

Incidents of spiking can be reported to the police here.

The Met have also provided the following advice for meeting people met online:

  • Tell someone; a friend, housemate or family member if and when arrangements to meet are made
  • Get a phone number and a live photo/video
  • Migrate from social media apps to a messaging app for additional security
  • Get as much verifiable information from the person as possible
  • Hide your valuables
  • Pour your own drink and keep it in sight
  • Reverse google image search to establish any potential scams
  • Trust your instincts

     

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