Mohammed Sohail Khan, Qaasim Ahmad and Muhammad Umar, all aged 18, created fake profiles on Grindr - the world’s largest social networking app for LGBTQ people.
The gang communicated with men on the app to convince them to meet up and arranged at least four fake dates with unsuspecting victims over three months.
The men arranged to meet their dates in Bordesley Green and then forced them onto wasteland before assaulting and restraining the victims, robbing them, and humiliating them by shouting anti-gay slurs.
The first attack happened on January 5 this year, and three further reports were made to West Midlands Police on March 18, 24 and 29 sparking a large investigation.
One of the victims told police that he had been spat on and DNA on his trousers was found to match that of Muhammad Umar, who became the prime suspect and was soon arrested in Bordesley Green along with two other teens, who were later released without charge.
Khan and Ahmad were soon also identified as suspects and were arrested by police at their home addresses on March 30.
A wealth of evidence was found on phones belonging to Khan, Ahmad and Umar and warrants conducted at their homes uncovered further items linking them to the crimes.
Blood belonging to one of their victim’s was found on the sleeve of a coat seized from Qaasim Ahmad’s bedroom. The expensive Canada Goose coat was presented as evidence during the trial.
Other evidence amassed during the investigation included CCTV from stores and ATMs where the defendants fraudulently used bank cards stolen from their victims, Snapchat videos and phone records.
All three men were charged with conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to falsely imprison and conspiracy to burgle.
Both Khan and Umar pleaded guilty to both conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to rob – including false imprisonment.
And Ahmad was found guilty of all three crimes following a 13 day trial at Birmingham Crown Court.
This week they were sentenced to a combined total of more than 37 years in prison.
Qaasim Ahmad from Heather Road, Small Heath was sentenced to 13 years, four months; Mohammed Sohail Khan of George Road, Hay Mills to 13 years, four months; and Muhammad Umar from Denville Crescent, Bordesley Green to 11 years, three months.
All three will be subject to an extended licence period due to the severity of their crimes – which were treated as a homophobic hate crime from the outset, and reflected as an aggravated factor in their sentences.
Victims speak of terror
Speaking about their fear and trauma since the attacks, the court heard a number of victim impact statements.
One said: “Since my attack the impact of what happened has taken many forms, first was the shock of being knocked to the ground, then the terror of being bound and threatened with being stabbed.
"As the punches hit my head and face I was expecting to be stabbed at any moment, it felt like hours as I was forced to lay face down in the dirt with my hands and legs bound not knowing if I would ever see my family again."
Another said: “Every time something reminds me of the attack, it takes me to a bad place and it affects my sleep. I have ongoing bad dreams particular about the moment of despair I felt at one point during the attack where I thought I would die in a horrible way.
"It is the memory of the fear of having that screwdriver rammed in my eye, that moment where the young man was threatening to do that.
"During the past six months there have been regular moments where I am taken back to that place. It can be watching television and seeing some violent scene in a drama or hearing about attacks on the news."
Det Chief Inspector Ian Ingram said: "This was a calculated series of robberies with Khan, Ahmad and Umar deliberately targeting gay men via the dating app Grindr, because they believed they were vulnerable, easy targets.
"My team gathered compelling evidence against the trio - who in police interview showed no remorse for what they had done, and seemingly had no grasp of the trauma they had subjected their victim to.
"I know it took the four victims in this case a huge amount of bravery and courage to come forward and support the criminal justice process through to trial - and I commend them for doing so.
“Their evidence enabled us to launch a full scale investigation and a build a strong case, which ultimately brought the offenders to justice, and has undoubtedly prevented many other people from becoming a victim.
“Unfortunately we suspect the defendants may have committed other offences before they were arrested, and many victims may not have reported what happened to them to police.
“I hope today’s outcome provides reassurance that we take these types of offences extremely seriously, and always do everything in our power to bring offenders to justice. Those found committing offences like this can expect to face a considerable length of time in prison.
“Naturally I would encourage anyone who has been subject to a similar ordeal to come forward and report it to police. All reports will be dealt with sensitively and victims will be supported by specially trained officers."