The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Charges brought in NYC gay-bar robberies that left D.C. consultant dead

Police said a 33-year-old from Washington who suffered a fatal overdose was among the victims

John Umberger, left, with his friend Jade Womack at a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission holiday party in 2019. (Courtesy of Jade Womack)
3 min

New York authorities have charged a group of people suspected in a citywide series of druggings and robberies at gay bars, including an attack that proved fatal for a D.C. political consultant.

In a heavily redacted indictment made public this week, authorities described a conspiracy in which those in the group would approach intoxicated people leaving bars or nightclubs, strike up conversations and then “offer and administer dangerous and illicit substances to them for the purpose of causing their incapacitation.”

Once the people were incapacitated, the indictment alleges, the group would take their credit cards or information on their phones to transfer money and make purchases at stores. In at least two cases, those who were drugged suffered fatal overdoses, authorities said.

The indictment, which refers to crimes between March 2021 and July 2022, lists five defendants but redacts the names of four. The one who is named, Shane Hoskins, is facing robbery and grand larceny charges, according to the indictment. He was arraigned Thursday in New York State Supreme Court, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Late Friday afternoon, the New York City Police Department named and released the photographs of three suspects in the two homicides, asking for the public’s assistance to find Jayqwan Hamilton, 35; Robert Demaio, 34; and Jacob Barroso, 30.

Police said they believe the men are connected to the deaths of John Umberger, a 33-year-old D.C. political consultant, and Julio Ramirez, a 25-year-old social worker. They were killed after leaving gay bars in the same Manhattan neighborhood last spring.

The unredacted portions of the indictment do not mention their deaths. But police said Friday that they believed the homicides are part of the citywide robbery pattern. Police added that 17 incidents that occurred between Sept. 19, 2021 and Aug. 28, 2022, are being investigated as part of the pattern, a slightly different time frame than that charged in the indictment.

Efforts to contact Hoskins or relatives were not successful.

Linda Clary, Umberger’s mother, said officials initially told her that her son had died of an accidental overdose; the medical examiner said he died of “intoxication by the combined effects of fentanyl” and four other substances, according to his death certificate.

Clary said she launched her own investigation because authorities’ description of her son sounded out of character for him. She later discovered Umberger had never gotten into the last cab he ordered and more than $20,000 had been withdrawn from his bank accounts.

On March 3, nine months after his body was found, the New York medical examiner ruled Umberger’s death a homicide. Clary said police told her they were investigating organized robbery rings that drug their targets and then gain access to their electronic devices by using facial recognition security features.

Clary said Friday that she had been told Hoskins was not directly connected to her son’s death. She expressed relief that authorities were making progress in the case but said she was “grossly disappointed” that Hoskins might be released as he awaits trial. The Manhattan district attorney’s office said bail was set at $50,000 cash, though prosecutors had asked for $100,000.

“It’s a gut punch,” she said.

The indictment included multiple text exchanges between Hoskins and other defendants, which showed them discussing where to go out for evenings and various ways of exchanging money.

Hoskins’s next court date is set for June 8, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office.