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Queerty: Fifth & final member of crew linked to fatal drugging of gay men in NYC arrested

Jayqwan Hamilton
Jayqwan Hamilton, 35 (Photo: NYPD)

Authorities in New York yesterday announced the arrest of five men they believe fatally drugged and robbed gay men in the city. Cops arrested four of the men in recent weeks. The fifth and final suspect, Jayqwan Hamilton, 35, turned himself in to police on Monday.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Mayor of New York, Eric Adams, both took part in a press conference to announce the indictments.

Suspicions were raised last year following the deaths of two gay men. Social worker Julio Ramirez, 25, died in the back of a cab he shared with a group of men. Relatives later said around $20,000 was gone from his bank account. His missing cell phone was used to make bank transfers and purchase sneakers.

Political consultant John Umberger, 33, was found dead in a Manhattan townhouse. Like Ramirez, he’d earlier been out at a gay bar. Witnesses said Umberger appeared severely incapacitated when he left. Again, money was missing from his account.

John A. Clary Umberger
John A. Clary Umberger (Photo: Facebook)

Both men had fentanyl, cocaine and lidocaine in their bodies.

“The defendants use these substances as weapons”

Prosecutors allege the five men arrested targeted men at gay clubs, plied them with drinks, drugged them, and then took them back home to steal from them.

“Their motive, we allege, was simple: to make money,” Bragg said Tuesday. “They approach people leaving bars and nightclubs late at night, engage them in conversation and offer them illicit and dangerous substances.

“The defendants use these substances as weapons to incapacitate their victims, giving them an opportunity to steal their phones and credit cards in the subsequent hours and days after each incident.”

Besides the two deaths included in these indictments, authorities believe the gang was responsible for other drug-related robberies.

Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said, “There were numerous victims in this pattern of crimes. They were targeted for robberies, and many of the victims are from our LGBTQIA-plus community.”

Mayor Eric Adams said, “We want to send a message to our LGBT community that we understood the trauma that you experienced during this time. He added that authorities will “investigate any potentiality of a hate-crime component to this.”

The four men previously arrested are Robert Demaio, 34; Jacob Barroso, 29; Andre Butts, 27; and Shane Hoskins, 30. Authorities say the “ringleader” of the group was Jayqwan Hamilton, 35.

All five are charged with robbery and conspiracy to commit the robberies, identity theft and grand larceny. Demaio and Hoskins are also charged with two counts of murder, while Barroso is charged with one count of murder.

Authorities say some of the men had video footage of Umberger overdosing on their phones. Hamilton was also caught on camera using both of the men’s credit cards.

Other druggings, robberies and killings

Although the arrest and charges will hopefully bring some justice to the families and loved ones of Umberger and Ramirez, cops say this is not the end of the matter. They think three other murders may have taken place due to other perpetrators operating similar drug-related robberies.

The Guardian reports 43 known druggings in NYC since September 2021.

If you suspect you were drugged by someone, and woke to find money or belongings missing, please report it to the police. Also, think very carefully before accepting drinks or drugs from strangers.