The New York City Police Department is investigating a string of incidents in which gay men say they were drugged at bars and left with massive unauthorized bank account withdrawals. At least two other gay men were discovered dead with suspicious bank withdrawals, according to family members who are sounding the alarm on their deaths.
"I can’t be quiet anymore," Linda Clary, the mother of John Umberger who died in May, told the New York Post last month. "Word needs to get out, especially in the gay community, that they are targeting gay men. ... This same group of killers have drugged, robbed and murdered countless young gay men in New York."
Umberger, 33, was discovered dead in an Upper East Side townhouse in May after he left a gay club in Hell’s Kitchen with a group of other men, the New York Times reported Saturday. Just a month earlier, another man named Julio Ramirez, 25, died in the back of a cab after leaving a gay bar with a group of men just blocks from where Umberger had spent the evening before his death.
In both cases, the men’s cellphones were missing when their bodies were discovered. Umberger’s mother told the New York Times that police initially said that her son, who was a Washington, D.C.-based political consultant, was robbed on the street, then returned home and overdosed on drugs. But she later discovered more than $20,000 from his bank account had been withdrawn and headed to New York City from her home in Georgia.
"The wallet had been emptied of the credit cards, debit cards and driver's license," Clary said last month.
"It's the same thing with Julio's case in that you have John is sandwiched between two people in the backseat of a car," she added.
Ramirez had visited the Ritz Bar and Lounge one evening in April and left in a cab just after 3 a.m. with three other men, the New York Times reported. A preliminary toxicology report showed he had died of a drug overdose — though his brother told the New York Times that he believes Ramirez was drugged.
The other men left Ramirez in the cab with the driver that night, and the man was pronounced dead about 90 minutes later. His brother, Carlos Ramirez, told the New York Times that money had been withdrawn from his bank accounts by the time his body was identified.
"Nobody thought it was a crime initially, they had just thought he had taken something," Carlos Ramirez told the outlet. "I knew somebody had given him something, and he did not know they had."
The New York City Police Department told Fox News Digital on Monday that Ramirez’s and Umberger’s deaths "are currently under investigation and the medical examiner will determine their causes of death." The police did not say whether the two men were targeted because they were gay.
Other men, however, have also reported being drugged and robbed of finances after a night out at a gay bars and clubs in Manhattan.
"I don’t remember what happened there," Oscar Alarcon, 33, told the New York Times of an evening out at the Ritz Bar in 2020. "I don’t remember how I left. Then I just woke up in a strange hotel lobby."
After waking up, he discovered $2,000 had been transferred out of his accounts through Paypal and Zelle apps on his phone.
The New York Times spoke to five men who said they were drugged at gay bars in the city and then robbed. Each man said that they were drugged by someone they don’t remember meeting and later found missing funds from their bank accounts, which were allegedly accessed through facial recognition technology on their phones.
"[The NYPD] asked me if I had been assaulted, and I was like, ‘Getting drugged is assault,’" Tyler Burt, 27, said. "It seemed like they thought being drugged wasn’t even a possibility. They said, ‘Maybe you were, but that isn’t really relevant to the robbery.’"
Burt said he was robbed of more than $25,000 after being drugged at the Boiler Room gay bar in the East Village last December.
When asked about the string of alleged druggings and robberies against gay men, the NYPD confirmed to Fox News Digital that the "Crimes Against Persons Unit, along with the Manhattan North and South Homicide Squads, are jointly working with our partners in the New York County District Attorney’s Office to investigate several incidents where individuals have been victims of either robberies or assault."
"Some of the victims are members of the LGBTQIA+ community, however it is believed that not all of the victims are. It is also believed that the motivation for these assault/robberies is monetary gain," the NYPD added. Police did not say whether Ramirez’s and Umberger’s deaths are related to the other alleged druggings and robberies.
The string of incidents and two deaths have sparked outcry that local officials need to track down those responsible and hold them accountable.
Police are asking anyone with information on the incidents to contact the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at https://crimestoppers.nypdonline.org or Twitter @NYPDTips.