New York, NY – A group of alleged gang members has been arrested in connection with a string of druggings and robberies that left at least two men dead.
A manhunt for another suspect accused in the drug-induced murders, 35-year-old Jayqwan Hamilton, remains ongoing.
Manhattan prosecutor Emily Chang said the suspects would approach “intoxicated individuals” who were leaving various bars and nightclubs throughout the city, the New York Post reported.
“Those targeted victims would be offered a substance that was promoted as cocaine and the intoxication by these drugs resulted in the victims becoming incapacitated,” Chang alleged. “The incapacitation led to the death of two individuals.”
Chang said the drugs were laced with fentanyl and a slew of other substances, the New York Post reported.
Julio Ramirez, a 25-year-old Brooklyn social worker, was found dead in the back of a taxi on April 21, 2022, after a night out at the Ritz Bar and Lounge, according to ABC News.
Ramirez’s bank accounts had been drained.
John Umberger, 33, was found dead on Jun 1, 2022, at the apartment on East 61st Street where he had been staying while in New York on a business trip, ABC News reported.
He had been out at Q, a gay nightclub in Hell’s Kitchen, the night before his death, according to the New York Daily News.
Umberger’s mother, Linda Clary, said someone stole over $200,000 from her son’s phone and credit cards, ABC News reported.
The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office determined last month that Ramirez and Umberger’s deaths were homicides resulting from “drug-facilitated thefts,” according to the New York Daily News.
Investigators said their deaths are among at least seven victims who suffered fatal overdoses after criminals slipped them deadly drug cocktails as they were leaving restaurants and bars in Manhattan.
Additional victims who survived also fit the same pattern, according to police, who said they are investigating a total of 17 similar cases altogether, ABC News reported.
The incidents all took place between Sept. 19, 2021, and Aug. 28, 2022.
Six reputed gang members have been indicted in connection with Ramirez and Umberger’s deaths so far, according to the New York Daily News.
Do you know the whereabouts of Jayqwan Hamilton, Robert Demaio, Jacob Barroso? The individuals are wanted in connection with two previously released homicide investigations. Any info call us at 800-577-TIPS or anonymously post a tip on our website https://t.co/TRPPY5zHV2 pic.twitter.com/12mqYMmHC4
— NYPD Crime Stoppers (@NYPDTips) April 1, 2023
Sources said one of the suspects, 34-year-old Robert Demaio, was charged after police executed a search warrant on his phone and found photos of him and another suspect inside Umberger’s apartment, the New York Post reported.
A photo showing an apparently unconscious Umberger laying face-up on a bed was also among the photos on Demaio’s phone, sources told the news outlet.
The victim was lying in the same position when his body was found, the New York Post reported.
Demaio was indicted on robbery and murder charges in March.
He turned himself in at the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) 5th Precinct station on April 3.
One of his co-defendants, 30-year-old Jacob Barroso, surrendered to police two days earlier, the New York Post reported.
Barroso, who has been indicted on charges of conspiracy, grand larceny, robbery, and murder in connection with the deaths of both men, was specifically charged with Ramirez’s murder, according to the New York Daily News.
A third suspect, Andre Butts, was arraigned in Manhattan Supreme Court on April 3, as were Barroso and Demaio, the New York Post reported.
Butts was charged with robbery and was ordered to be held on a $150,000 bond or $100,000 cash bail.
A fourth member of the crew, Shane Hoskins, was apprehended on March 30.
Hoskins was being held at Riskers Island on a $100,000 bond or $50,000 cash bail, the New York Post reported.
“Our entire city continues to mourn the tragic losses of Mr. Ramirez and Mr. Umberger,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in a statement to the New York Post. “In addition to the unimaginable pain their family and loved ones are during, I know that many other New Yorkers have feared for their own safety when out experiencing New York’s vibrant nightlife.”