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The Horrifying Case of the Colorado Man Accused of Hunting Sex Slaves on Grindr

In addition to highlighting the potential dangers of internet dating, the case suggests that even if sex-trafficking victims are usually women, troubled young gay men are vulnerable to sexual predators too.

by Allie Conti
05 October 2015, 11:00am

Photo via Fox 31 Denver/handout

This article originally appeared on VICE US

A 48-year-old Colorado man has been accused of "hunting" young men off of Grindr, keeping them in his home as sex slaves, and even branding them with a tattoo of his own name. Before Sean Crumpler was arrested on 12 charges that include human trafficking for sexual servitude, sexual assault on a child, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, some alleged victims told police that there were as many as 12 men—some underage—living in his Aurora home.

"As far as this kind of thing, where he is luring kids from California and using online dating websites, it's like 'Holy crap,'" FBI victim specialist Anne Darr told the Denver Post. "We've never seen this before."

The case, while horrifying, serves as a reminder that, even though popular narrative suggests that sex-trafficking victims are typically women, a disproportionate number of LGBT youth are homeless and therefore forced into survival sex.

The investigation into Crumpler began back in July, when a missing teen from California texted his parents asking for his Social Security number and birth certificate so that he could travel to Canada. A detective at the Long Beach Police Department traced the phone number to Crumpler, who was already on the sex offender registry in the state for soliciting sex acts, according to records from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

The detective started looking into the man who owned the runaway's phone. He found that back in May, another cop with the same department had responded to a sexual assault report against Crumpler made by a 16-year-old runaway that pointed to an incredibly dark scene.

According to an affidavit, the 16-year-old recounted that his Facebook had been hacked and spammed with nude pictures. He told the cop he was ashamed and wanted to run away from home, so he contacted two friends who said they could help him get to Colorado to live with Crumpler, who would give him room and board in exchange for sex.

Eventually, they met up with Crumpler at a hotel room in California. When the victim went to use the bathroom, he returned to find his two friends and the older man naked on a bed. They all had sex, and then went to dinner, where the victim mentioned his age, according to the affidavit.

The following day, Crumpler allegedly picked up another boy from Grindr who was 18 years old and had been kicked out of his house.

"This is what I like to call hunting," Crumpler allegedly told the group as they prepared to meet the new boy at a McDonald's. Eventually, the entire group went back to Aurora, Colorado, together, where the group sex acts continued.

Victims later told police that Crumpler was HIV positive and never used condoms with any of the young men.

Eventually, the 16-year-old was able to identify Crumpler from a piece of mail and called the police. But by June, detectives weren't able to locate him, and the rape charges were dropped because the alleged victim had stopped cooperating.

But all of this was enough for the Aurora Police Department SWAT team to obtain and execute a search warrant. Photos taken in the search revealed there was some order to the house: A list of chores with names attached to it featured mundane directives like "trash" and "clean room."

Officers questioned several people found at the residence who all relayed similar stories of meeting Crumpler on Grindr. Several of them mentioned that the the IT specialist kept his five-bedroom, seven-bathroom home stocked with alcohol and weed, even though he never got intoxicated himself.

A 23-year-old who used to live with Crumpler told a local Fox affiliate that the young men would spend their days watching Netflix, playing video games, and making online porn. He also said they were all branded with the word Sean and a bird to "[keep] away all the other 'sugar daddies' when they are out partying or at the club."

On September 16, Crumpler was let out on $100,000 bond, although a judge recently acknowledged that it was a mistake (and a violation of state law) to release him without also issuing a protection order. That judge, John Scipione, also denied Arapahoe County prosecutors's requests that Crumpler's passport be confiscated because he owns a hotel in Thailand. He's also still allowed to use the internet, although only for work purposes.

The preliminary hearing in the case is set for November 23.

Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.

Sean Crumpler Affidavit