MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) – Sixty people have been arrested and warrants issued for eight others, after a Florida Sheriff’s Office investigation found drug dealers were using dating apps like Grindr, Taimi and Scruff to sell illegal narcotics.
The six-month investigation by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, dubbed “Swipe Left for Meth,” began in July 2021 following a report to Heartland Crime Stoppers, according to a statement from the department.
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Polk Co. Sheriff Grady Judd said dealers would use ice cream cone and birthday cake emoticons to signal they were selling drugs along with code words like ‘party’ and ‘Tina’ , which he said represented methamphetamine.
“It was a shock to us that they were openly advertising,” Judd said. “Can you believe this? They were openly advertising that they were selling drugs on a dating app.
Undercover narcotics sleuths created profiles on the apps and struck up conversations with sellers of meth, fentanyl, LSD, ecstasy, marijuana and cocaine, the statement said.
“It was clear during the conversations and ensuing undercover drug purchases that the suspects’ primary purposes for being on the dating app were to sell drugs – not to find a date,” the statement said.
“Selling drugs or any illegal activity on Grindr is strictly prohibited as a violation of our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service. Our moderation team works hard every day to ban bad actors while maintaining privacy and safety of our users,” Bill Shafton, vice president of business and legal affairs for Grindr said in a statement provided to CNN.
Andyol said the company has not received any inquiries from law enforcement regarding drug-related activity, but will conduct an internal investigation based on information released by Sheriff Judd’s office and improve moderation. to avoid future similar incidents.
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“We are concerned, however, that three separate LGBTQ+ apps were used to conduct the investigation given the growing stigma surrounding LGBTQ+ communities that are already subject to suspicion,” Andyol said.
A spokesperson for dating app Scruff told CNN they had no comment on the Polk County arrests. Scruff’s Terms of Service prohibit using the app for “any unlawful purpose” and “for commercial or non-private purposes.”
Detectives filed 159 felony charges and 72 misdemeanor charges during the investigation.
The suspects had a total of 908 prior charges – 453 prior felonies and 455 misdemeanors.
During the investigation, the sheriff’s office said it seized 14 firearms, two of which were reported stolen.
Detectives were able to purchase approximately 280 grams of methamphetamine with a street value of approximately $14,000 and approximately 3 grams of cocaine, the statement said.
The operation also yielded approximately 645 grams of marijuana, 113 grams (130 pills) of ecstasy, 1.5 grams of fentanyl/heroin, 28 grams of psychedelic mushrooms and one gram of LSD.
“Suspects are getting more creative, but so are our detectives…When we find drug dealers, we put them in jail,” Judd said in the statement.
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