Two men who met unconventionally were victims of very similar crimes after they were lured and robbed using the Grindr app.
“We gained a friendship because of this,” Alexander Valentin, 35, tells NewsChannel 5 in an exclusive interview.
Irving Soto, 48, and Valentin were victims of very similar crimes, just two days apart in late March, when both were on the gay social networking app, Grindr.
In just a few hours of exchanging messages, both were convinced to go up the stairs into apartment No. 1.
“First door on the left,” Valentin recalls.
On March 29, Soto ignored his better judgment, “I didn’t get a good feeling.”
On the March 31, so did Valentin, “You could smell the weed.”
In both cases, according to police, 20 minutes after showing up, what was one on one, turned into one on three.
Soto says, “What went down in that room, things went from 0 to 950 (mph).”
Valentin says, “They had a knife to my neck the other pulled out a gun. He says if you say something or do anything, he was going to shoot me.”
After taking more than $1,000 worth of Soto’s stuff, they let him go.
But once they deemed Valentin didn’t have enough valuables on him, the false imprisonment turned into a kidnapping in his own car, and then taking him to his house.
“They told me to put my hands on top of the seat and the guy over here had the guy on my neck,” Valentin says.
Police says they ransacked his house, taking around $800 worth and his Yorkie named Coco. They then brought them back to the their apartment and proposed a deal with a deadline and ordered him away.
“It was bad. I couldn’t sleep. I cried. I was more concerned about my dog then them coming to my house because they told me if I didn’t pay them $300 by 10 p.m. (the next day) they would kill my dog and put her on my doorstep,” Valentine says.
He didn’t pay, and she didn’t die. Scared to go to the police, he made a post on Facebook about the ordeal, that one of Soto’s mutual friends saw that sounded familiar, warning about the hazards of social media.
“This man gave me the courage to speak my truth,” Soto says.
Together, they took it to police on April 1.
On Wednesday came closure when the three suspects were arrested.
And one very special dog, hungry and dirty, was reunited with its owner.
“I started crying because….she’s my dog. I got very happy,” Valentin says. “Now that I have her, she’s going to give me strength.
Both men encouraged any other potential victims to share their story.
All three suspects were expected to be court Thursday morning for their first appearance.