NYC Robbery Gang Fatally Drugged Men at Gay Bars, Transferred Thousands of Dollars to Their Cash App Accounts After They Died

Jacob Barroso, Jayqwan Hamilton and Robert Demaio
Jacob Barroso (from left) Jayqwan Hamilton and Robert Demaio. Twitter

The NYPD has released the identities of three suspects believed to have been responsible for the deaths of two men who were fatally drugged at gay nightclubs in Hell's Kitchen last year.

Jayqwan Hamilton, 35, of Brooklyn; Robert Demaio, 34, of Brooklyn; and Jacob Barroso, 30, of Manhattan were indicted last week with murder over the deaths of John Umberger and Julio Ramirez, as reported by the New York Post.

A total of six arrest warrants were issued by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office last week in connection with the incidents. The trio, along with three other suspects, also face charges of grand larceny, robbery and conspiracy to drug and rob in connection to at least 17 incidents throughout the city between September 2021 and August 2022, police and sources said.

Victims Died After Ingesting Deadly Cocktail of Drugs

John Umberger and Julio Ramirez
John Umberger (left) and Julio Ramirez (right) Twitter

Umberger, 33, and Ramirez, 25, died after they ingested a deadly cocktail of drugs while out partying in Hell's Kitchen's vibrant LGBTQ neighborhood last spring. Both died as a result of "acute intoxication" from a mix of fentanyl, cocaine, ethanol and other drugs, the city Medical Examiner found on March 3.

The Medical Examiner concluded that the two men were victims of homicides caused by "drug-facilitated thefts," after leaving the Q NYC and Ritz Bar and Lounge gay nightclubs in separate incidents.

So far, the Office of Chief Medical Examiner has released findings on seven people who were the victims of alleged fatal druggings tied to Manhattan nightclubs, including 35-year-old fashion designer Katie Gallagher.

NYPD Detective Randy Rose connected the deaths to a string of robberies by a gang operating in the area's gay clubs that was drugging victims and using mobile cash apps to siphon tens of thousands of dollars from their bank accounts.

Gang Used Cash Apps to Siphon Thousands, Spent Credit Cards on Expensive Dinners, Spas

Umberger, a political consultant from Washington D.C., vanished on Saturday, May 28, 2022, after a night out at The Q NYC, a gay nightclub at 795 Eighth Ave, during a work visit to New York.

Records show his credit card was last used at the club around 3 a.m. An hour later he was spotted on surveillance camera with three men in a car outside of the Upper East Side apartment where he was staying.

Four days later, his body was found on the fifth floor of the E. 61st Street townhouse, which is owned by conservative attorney Jay Sekulow's American Center for Law and Justice — where Umberger worked as director of diplomacy and political programs. Umberger's cell phone and credit card were missing. Over $25,000 had been transferred out of his accounts through apps like Venmo and Paypal.

Just weeks earlier on April 21, Brooklyn social worker Julio Ramirez, 25, was found dead in the back of a taxi on the Lower East Side at about 4 a.m. He had been at the Ritz Bar and Lounge, a gay club on West 46th Street that is just two blocks from Q NYC. Ramirez was also spotted on security camera leaving the bar with three men.

Like Umberger, Ramirez' phone and wallet were missing, and his bank accounts had been emptied of about $20,000 via apps such as Venmo and Zelle; later his credit cards were maxed out on expensive dinners and spa services.

This article was first published on April 1, 2023