A second suspect has been arrested and charged with murder in connection with a series of drug-fueled robberies of men who frequented gay bars in New York, including two deaths, two top law enforcement officials told NBC News on Monday.
Robert DeMaio, 34, was charged with murder, robbery, grand theft, identity theft and conspiracy in connection with the death of John Umberger, a 33-year-old political consultant, and in a separate incident in which an unidentified victim did not die, officials said .
Umberger and Julio Ramirez, a 25-year-old social worker, were found dead after visiting gay bars in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood last spring. Both left the bars with at least one stranger before their bank accounts were drained of thousands of dollars using facial recognition access to their phones, according to family members.
Last month, the medical examiner’s office ruled their deaths a homicide caused by “drug-facilitated theft.” Multiple drugs were found in their systems, including fentanyl, lidocaine and cocaine.
DeMaio’s detention follows that of Jacob Barroso on Saturday. Barroso, 30, was charged with murder, robbery, theft and conspiracy in connection with Ramirez’s death and in a separate incident in which the victim survived, police said Sunday.
In addition to DeMaio and Barroso, authorities named a third suspect believed to be connected to the killings, Jaquan Hamilton, 35, on Friday. Police said they believed the three men were among those responsible for a wider “citywide robbery pattern” that involved at least 17 victims. The incidents — which include the robberies and deaths of Ramirez and Umberger — occurred between Sept. 19, 2021, and Aug. 28, 2022, the spokesman said.
Last week, Shane Hoskins was charged with felony theft and identity theft in connection with the same string of robberies.
An indictment naming Hoskins, 31, and four other unidentified co-conspirators, outlines a pattern in which victims were “incapacitated to the point where their ability to perceive events was diminished” so the suspects could then steal the cellphones phones and credit cards of their victims and use the physical cards and information stored on the victims’ phones to transfer money to themselves and make purchases.
More on New York gay bar deaths and robberies
NBC News spoke with several gay men who said they experienced similar incidents from December 2021 to October 2022.
The New York Police Department previously confirmed to NBC News that there are multiple groups of criminals committing these types of crimes against men visiting the city’s gay bars. Police also said similar crimes have been committed against non-LGBTQ bar patrons.
A separate group is suspected of committing similar crimes against 26 victims, two law enforcement officials told NBC News last week. Fashion designer Catherine Marie Gallagher, whose death in July was ruled a drug-assisted homicide by the medical examiner’s office, was one of the group’s subsequent victims, officials said.
Last week, the New York City medical examiner’s office also confirmed it was investigating “several additional deaths under similar circumstances” to those of Ramirez and Umberger. However, it is unclear whether they were found dead after visiting gay bars or whether they were linked to DeMaio, Barroso and Hamilton.
A spokesman for the coroner’s office said they were “unable to comment further due to ongoing criminal investigations”.