OPD investigating robberies described as 'hate crimes' targeting LGBTQ victims

The Orlando Police Department is investigating what they are describing as robberies that could rise to the level of hate crimes. 

Detectives on Thursday announced the arrest of two men, ages 16 and 18, who have been identified as suspects in a string of robberies at apartment complexes in the Millenia area. They committed at least eight armed robberies and one kidnapping between June and mid-July, according to investigators.

The suspects contacted victims through apps like Snapchat, Offer-Up, Craigslist, and Letgo. In four of the cases, the suspects looked for LGBTQ+ victims via dating sites like Grinder and Sniffies. These crimes have been classified as hate crimes by detectives.

"The heinous part of this is these suspects knew that these victims had a great chance of not reporting," said Orlando Police Sgt. Mike Massicotte during a press conference on Thursday.

"The suspects targeted victims wishing to conceal their identity and activities, knowing they would likely not report the robberies," OPD said in a news release. "The suspects set up the meeting at a specified location between West Oakridge Road and Conroy Road, under the false pretense of either making a purchase transaction or just to ‘meet up.’" 

MORE NEWS: Deputies say suspect follows Black man home after road rage incident, yells racial slurs

Some of the locations selected were The Fountains at Millenia, The Place on Millenia, Glen on Millenia, Century Millenia, the Villages on Millenia, Aria at Millenia, Northbridge on Millenia Lake, and Ridge Club.

Upon meeting, detectives said they threatened their victims with a firearm(s) and stole cell phones, tablets, credit cards, and cash. In some cases, the victims were also instructed to transfer cash to the suspects’ accounts from mobile banking and payment apps. 

MORE NEWS: Asian Americans in Central Florida speak out against hate crimes

Investigators believe there could be more people victimized in this crime spree, but they might be apprehensive in reporting what happened.

"Some of these individuals don't want to be publicly outed, they don't want people to know what's happening and they're not going to report," said Sgt. Massicotte. "My major intent here is to have those victims who may not have reported, to come forward and report."

If you, or someone you know, was victimized in a robbery in this general area, say something about it. Call Crimeline via 1-800-423-TIPS (8477), or report it online at https://crimeline.org/. Or you can call our detectives directly at 407-246-2927.

Watch FOX 35 News for the latest Central Florida headlines.