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Three Men Drugged, Robbed after Going to NYC Gay Bar; Pattern Similar to Death of Julio Ramirez

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday February 6, 2023

Julio Ramirez, 25, died last spring in similar circumstances
Julio Ramirez, 25, died last spring in similar circumstances  (Source:Julio Ramirez/Instagram)

Three men who visited The Eagle, a gay leather bar in New York City, were drugged and robbed in crimes with similarities to the overdose deaths of at least two other gay men after they visited two other bars.

"The three partygoers aged 47, 42 and 39 visited Chelsea hotspot The Eagle NYC — which brands itself 'New York's premier gay leather bar'

— on separate nights last October and November," UK newspaper the Daily Mail reported.

Once drugged, the perpetrators used the victims' phones to rob them, the Daily Mail added, detailing that "Authorities believed facial recognition software on their smartphones allowed criminals to access their cash to the tune of anywhere between $1,000 and $5,000."

"The bar was perhaps aware of this, having posted a now-deleted Instagram video of who they believed to be suspicious characters," the news outlet went on to say.

"Do not take rides from these guys," the Eagle reportedly posted. "We are told that they have someone in a car (around nearby street corners) waiting for these guys to bring someone."

The news report also said that at least two others — a "19-year-old woman and a 27-year-old man" — were robbed in the same way, one in November and the other in December. They "were swindled at the Hotel Chantelle about three miles south" of The Eagle.

The crimes fit the same MO that perpetrators seemed to have used in the overdose death, and subsequent electronic robbery, of Julio Ramirez, a student who left the Ritz Bar and Lounge with three unidentified men on the evening of April 21 of last year. Ramirez was found unresponsive in a taxi a few hours later. Days after his death, someone using Ramirez's phone emptied his bank accounts.

About five weeks later, another victim died from an overdose after leaving The Q, a gay bar located a few blocks from the Ritz. Local news channel PIX reported that "John Umberger reportedly went to The Q NYC on May 28 during a work trip from Washington, D.C."

"He later was seen on surveillance with three men in a car outside a townhouse on East 61st Street," the article said.

A story from W42ST completed the account: "Umberger was found dead on June 1 in an apartment in an Upper East Side townhouse belonging to his employer, Donald Trump impeachment lawyer Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice."

"Umberger was its director of diplomacy and political programs. His mobile phone and credit card had been stolen and more than $25,000 was missing from his bank accounts."

In addition to those incidents, "more than a dozen are believed to have been targeted so far," the Mail noted.

Commenting on the cases from last fall, NYPD Captain Robert Gault told the Mail, "What we think is happening with this scheme is [victims are] being lured away from the club, maybe [with enticements along the lines of] 'Hey, you wanna come with me? I got some good drugs,' or something like that."

"And then, once they get into a car to do whatever it is that they're going to do, at some point or another, they don't know what happened when they wake up."

The Mail added that the NYPD have made some progress with their investigation into the multiple druggings and robberies, reporting that "Gauld's team has been able to do is connect each case based on license plates, vehicles and a phone number connected to the suspects."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.