Florida officials use dating apps to try to find drug dealers

Dozens of people are accused of selling drugs on LGBTQ dating apps and concealing their sales with emoticons and code words, Florida authorities said Thursday.

Detectives from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office alleged that 52 people used three apps – Grindr, Scruff and Taimi – to sell methamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, marijuana and other drugs, the sheriff’s office said in a news release.

Among the emojis that were used were ice cream cones and birthday cakes, Sheriff Grady Judd told reporters. The word “Tina” was used for methamphetamine, he said.

Marijuana was the top-selling drug, with investigators buying nearly a pound and a half through online sales, the sheriff’s office said. Methamphetamine, at 280 grams, was second.

“When you were hitting them, swipe left for meth, you were talking to these people – guess what?” said Judd. “They would offer to sell you drugs.”

Grindr, which describes itself as the world’s largest social networking app for the LGBTQ community, saw more sales than the other two apps, the sheriff’s office said.

In a statement, the company said drug sales are strictly prohibited on the app. “Our moderation team works hard every day to ban bad actors while maintaining the privacy and security of our users,” the statement read.

Users have previously accused the company of not doing enough to control illegal drug sales. A Grindr spokesperson told NBC News three years ago that the company “prohibits the promotion of drug use in user profiles” and encourages users to report “suspicious and threatening activity.”

A spokeswoman for Taimi said in an email Friday that the company was “doing its best to prevent any illegal or aggressive activity against users.” Algorithms are used to block suspicious activity and moderation teams deal with complaints within 20 minutes, spokeswoman Yana Andyol said.

Andyol said the company has not heard from Judd’s office, but after learning of his investigation, Taimi will conduct an internal investigation into app activity in Florida and elsewhere.

A spokesperson for Scruff declined to comment.

The sheriff’s office said a tip in July sparked the investigation, dubbed “Swipe Left for Meth.” Detectives created undercover profiles and “found it relatively easy to strike up conversations,” the sheriff’s office said.

‘It was clear during subsequent conversations and drug purchases that the suspects’ primary purposes for being on the dating app were to sell drugs and not to find a date,’ the sheriff’s office said. .

About Jimmie P. Ricks

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