I-Team: Criminals using dating apps to lure victims; man punched, robbed in Las Vegas hotel room

I-Team

Police warn unsuspecting lovers about who may be on other side of screen

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Unsuspecting suitors are getting lured, trapped and robbed in what Las Vegas Metropolitan police say is a scheme using dating apps to trap victims.

“You never know who’s on the other end of the computer screen,” Lt. William Matchko said. Matchko heads the department’s Vice Unit.

In August, officers arrested two people suspected of isolating, threatening, punching and robbing a man who thought he was on a date.

Police said the man had met Aprileen Sablan, 25, on Plenty of Fish, a popular dating app, at Caesar’s Palace on Aug. 21. Sablan and the man met in person in the casino. Things escalated and the pair ended up in a hotel room.

About a minute later, Zanier Kowlessar, 35, was at the door, police said. The victim tried to leave, but Kowlessar pushed the man back into the room and punched him in the face.

Kowlessar and Sablan then demanded money from the man, eventually telling him to strip naked and live-streaming the incident on Facebook, police said.

“All of a sudden, he was isolated and trapped in a very dangerous situation,” Matchko said.

Police did not release the victim’s name nor age.

Police said the man met Aprileen Sablan, 25, on Plenty of Fish, and went to a hotel room. About a minute later, Zanier Kowlessar, 35, was at the door. (KLAS)

About a half-hour later, Kowlessar and Sablan took their victim to two separate ATMs near the hotel. At some point, the victim was able to alert a nearby officer for help.

“I think a lot of people in the public are naive as to what they’re getting themselves into,” Matchko said, adding people with good intentions are falling into this trap. “You may go out there and meet your dream partner, you may meet your future husband or wife and live happily ever after.”

Many of these incidents are going unreported, Matchko said, and Metro does not have a definitive number of how often they are happening.

The best advice is to meet a date in public and never isolate yourself until you really know how that potential partner is.

“The worst thing that can happen is it becomes too late,” Matchko said.

The I-Team reached out to Plenty of Fish for comment but did not hear back.

Match Group, which owns Plenty of Fish and other dating websites like Hinge, Match, OkCupid and Tinder, offers tips to protect their users when they go on dates, including not isolating themselves with a stranger.

Plenty of Fish and Tinder also offer a service to connect a user with police in an emergency, but one obviously must have access to their phone at the time.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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