TOWN OF ROCK
Rock County sheriff’s detectives are investigating armed robberies in which dating apps were used to lure men to rural driveways in January and February.
The information comes in a search warrant affidavit used to obtain a smartphone police believe was used in the deception.
In two of the robberies, the dating app Grindr was used.
Grindr is used by gay men, and in one of the deceptions, a robber said he was a Janesville 20-year-old and sent a photo of a young man pulling up his shirt to reveal a bare torso, according to the affidavit.
Another robbery was set up using an app called Skout, in which the victim thought he had arranged to meet a 20-year-old woman whom he would pay $200 for sex, according to the affidavit.
Capt. Todd Christiansen of the Rock County Sheriff’s Office would say very little about the case because of the active investigation, but he said investigators suspect other robberies using similar tactics also occurred.
Two teens named in the affidavit already are charged with armed robbery of a business in nearby Janesville. The Gazette is not naming them because they have not been charged, arrested or named as suspects in the dating app robberies.
The affidavit describes nighttime incidents in driveways on South River Road in the town of Rock, just south of Janesville:
- Jan. 9: A South River Road resident reported seeing a man wearing a black mask and waving a long gun at him. The man disappeared into the woods.
- Jan. 11: Another resident in the same area reported a suspicious vehicle parked in his driveway. Deputies responding found a vehicle whose driver told them he had corresponded with someone on Grindr who asked him to meet in a driveway.
The victim, from Beloit, was arrested on a charge of possession of marijuana.
- Jan. 12: The robber again contacted the Beloit man, who agreed to meet him in the same area. While on his way, the robber asked the man to lend him $40 and to leave it in the mailbox at the end of the driveway before walking to the house.
The man thought this odd and decided to leave without getting out of his car.
- Jan. 14: A man was robbed in a driveway after corresponding with someone on Grindr whose profile indicated he was a 20-year-old from Janesville.
The apparent victim, an Orfordville man, said he and the other man agreed to meet for dinner and a movie.
The man told a deputy he walked up to the residence, but no one was home. As he was walking back to his car, a man came out of the trees wearing a black, hooded sweatshirt, pointed a shotgun at him and told him to give him money and to reset his phone.
The man threw about $60 on the ground, and as the robber was picking it up, he jumped into his vehicle and “floored it” in reverse as he hid below the dashboard.
- Feb. 24: A man called 911 and said he had been robbed at gunpoint after making arrangements using Skout to meet a woman named “Jessy” for sex. They had sent photos to each other, and she asked the man to bring a bottle of cognac.
The man parked in the driveway as instructed, walked to the house, and no one was there. On his way back, a man with a bandanna covering his mouth approached him pointing a handgun, he told investigators.
The robber demanded money and the cognac. As he was handing over the money, bills blew away, and the robber made him pick them up and put them in the mailbox, where he also left the bottle.
When the robber went to collect the money, the man went to his car, and heard the robber say, “I’m going to kill you,” he told investigators.
The man turned the car around and tried to run down the robber but missed and got stuck in the snow, and the robber left the scene.
“Jessy” at one point had invited the man to text her. Investigators later learned the phone number belonged to one of the male suspects.
Investigators also linked a suspect to a Janesville incident in which a parent reported her juvenile son was texting with a person to buy marijuana.
The marijuana seller had the same phone number as a robbery suspect, and at one point he bragged in a text that he was robbing people by using an app, according to the affidavit.