A U.K. man who used the popular gay dating app Grindr to rob and blackmail his victims has been sentenced to five years behind bars, Metropolitan Police officials said.
Anouar Sabbar, of the south London district of Southwark, was sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Thursday, about two months after pleading guilty to robbery, theft, five counts of blackmail, as well as five counts of fraud.
Investigators said that Sabbar would target victims with whom he would connect through the app. After having consensual sex with them, the 28-year-old would say that he was an escort and would demand money from the men, whose ages ranged from 25 to 57 years old.
After he was paid, Sabbar would block the victim's Grindr profile, so their conversation would be automatically deleted. He would also change phone numbers and SIM cards regularly, as well as his hairstyle, so he wouldn't be recognized on the app.
According to investigators, when one of the victims refused to give him money, Sabbar said that someone would visit him at home and beat him up.
In another incident, police said that Sabbar threatened to tell the victim's girlfriend about their sexual encounter. He said he would show the girlfriend their chat, as well as photographs exchanged in the app, if the person refused to pay.
After an officer identified him as a suspect, on July 31, investigators went to his work and were able to get his current phone number. When that officer later called him, Sabbar swore at her and told her that they would never catch him.
He was arrested later that day.
According to police, Sabbar stole a total of 2,360 pounds (around $3,200) from April 2019 until June 2021.
"Sabbar is a nasty and spineless individual who used Grindr to target victims and used their vulnerabilities against them," Detective Inspector Arif Sharif with the Met Police said in a statement.
He thanked the officer who "diligently carried out the investigation" for taking this "dangerous offender" off the streets.
He also thanked the victims who have been "incredibly brave in coming forward and reporting the offenses Sabbar committed against them."
"There may be others who were exploited by Sabbar who until now have felt unable to tell anyone," he added, urging those who were also exploited by Sabbar to "please get in touch with us."
Grindr is a location-based social networking and dating application that uses members' GPS positions to chat with people nearby. Since it launched in 2009, the app became massively popular among gay and bisexual men in the U.S. and abroad. It has a reported 13 million monthly users worldwide.