Pando

Your monthly helping of serious ridesharing allegations

By Nathaniel Mott , written on April 29, 2016

From The Legal Affairs Desk

It’s hard to come up with a snappy lede for new entries in this series.

On the one hand, making jokes about Uber drivers and their misdeeds is the only coping mechanism I know how to use. On the other, it’s hard to make jokes about people being assaulted, raped, and otherwise harmed by the people they pay to ferry them from one end of town to the other. How serious, then, is too serious? We aren’t filming some indie French movie filled with existential crises and cigarettes; we’re rounding up a month’s worth of horror stories involving real people with real traumas. So I guess I’ll just skip the quippish remarks this go-around and jump right into the latest episodes.

Uber drivers assaulting, raping, and creeping out passengers

First, an Uber driver named Mohamed Mohamoud was fined £1550 for refusing a ride to a blind woman with a guide dog. The woman, Jade Sharp, called Mohamoud to inform him that the guide dog would be riding with her and a friend on their way home from a concert. Mohamoud nixed the ride, failed to plead his case to a judge, and was then kicked off Uber’s ridesharing platform.

A few days earlier, a court decided that Michigan spree shooter Jason Dalton was competent to stand trial, which will move forward over the coming months. Dalton is accused of -- and has confessed to -- shooting eight people at multiple locations in Kalamazoo. Six of them died. He’s also said to have picked up multiple passengers while he traveled between the shooting sites.

Honolulu Uber driver Luke Wadahara was indicted by a grand jury on that same day. He was accused of locking a 16-year-old girl in his car and sexually assaulting her after giving her a ride. Wadahara was charged with two counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of attempted sexual assault; his bail was set at $150,000.

On April 19, the Florida Highway Patrol said that a December 25 collision between an Uber driver and a Seminole County sheriff’s patrol car resulted from the Uber driver running a red light. The driver is 71 years old; his 28-year-old passenger died in the crash. No-one else involved -- a prospective Uber driver and deputy Scott Sullivan -- sustained major injuries from the accident.

Meanwhile, on April 15, an Uber driver and the Land Transport Authority enforcement officer he fought last November were both charged in a Singapore court. A passenger filmed the fight and posted it to Facebook. Both men face the possibility of fines and jail time if they are convicted.

Just a day earlier, an Uber driver was suspended from the service after he told a female passenger that he “likes sex” and offered her a free ride if she went out with him for drinks. Uber told the Manchester Evening-News that this was a “serious incident” and that it had suspended the “driver-partner” from its platform while it investigates the passenger’s complaint.

On April 11, reports surfaced of an Uber driver using his vehicle to transport kilos of heroin around New York. The driver, José del Rosario Fernandez, was accused of secretly driving the drugs around the city while continuing to pick up passengers between January and December 2015. At one point he’s said to have picked up a shipment worth $2.5 million. He has denied all charges.

Previously, on April 7, more details were revealed about an Uber driver accused of raping his passenger in El Cajon, California. The assault is said to have occurred in late February. According to the arrest warrant, 52-year-old John Sanchez assaulted a female passenger after she went on a date, forcing on her in the back seat of his vehicle. Uber said he passed a background check.

Finally, on March 25, a Lyft driver was fired after he “engaged in a profanity-laced political rant with two passengers” he was driving to a Bernie Sanders rally. The argument eventually reached a point where the passengers were kicked out of the driver’s vehicle; when Lyft heard about the driver’s actions, it suspended him from its service. The driver was, naturally, a Trump supporter.

Uber drivers being attacked by passengers

Now for the part where passengers are total dicks. First up we have a Boston man choking out his Uber driver -- while the vehicle was in motion -- after he and a friend booked a ride. Both are said to have been intoxicated (one threw up in the vehicle) and the Uber driver said he believed the passenger, Maxwell Sweeney, intended to kill him. Sweeney has been arrested and charged.

On April 25, a Lyft driver was “pistol-whipped and robbed by two men” in Mission Valley, California. It’s not clear how much money was stolen; why the men targeted the Lyft driver; or whether or not police have any leads into the incident. The driver was treated for scratches on the face, but doesn’t appear to have suffered any serious injuries as a result of the attack.

That same day, an Uber driver was hit by a stray bullet in Toronto. He was making a U-turn at the time when a bullet pierced his window and grazed his elbow. He was also treated at a hospital and, just like the story above, there’s no word on whether or not the police have any suspects.

Previously, a female Uber driver was sexually assaulted by a drunk passenger in Florida. The man was accused of “exposing his penis to the driver, offering her $100 to fondle him and groping her breasts from the back seat while she drove.” The passenger was later arrested, charged with criminal sexual abuse that threatens a victim’s life, and held in lieu of a $50,000 bail.

On April 9, an Uber driver was shot dead by two teenagers in Delhi, India. They reportedly made jokes about each other -- some about the driver’s “native place,” others about the teenagers themselves -- before they decided to shoot the driver. Both were detained by law enforcement. It was the first day the driver, Kuldeep Thakur, had started to accept rides through Uber’s platform.

Two days earlier,, a passenger named Juan Carlos hailed an Uber to travel between Philadelphia and Herkimer, New York. The driver asked Carlos to drive while he took a nap; when he woke up, he found that Carlos was leading the police on a high-speed chase in a town near the state border. They slammed into a guardrail, and Carlos was charged with numerous traffic violations.

An Uber driver’s vehicle was hijacked the previous day in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s not clear why the driver was targeted; he reportedly told a passenger that “things were really crazy there at the moment,” but he didn’t have a chance to elaborate before three men stole his phone and wallet before forcing their way into his vehicle. Uber said the passenger and driver are “okay.”

The remaining incidents are: a Chicago Uber driver’s vehicle was stolen while his wife was still inside, until she was able to jump out after the thief threatened to kill her; and two Uber drivers in Boston were robbed on the same night after three unidentified men asked to be taken to the same location twice in an hour. No arrests have been reported in connection to either incident.

Criminals pretending to be an Uber driver

Next we come to a growing problem -- criminals posing as Uber drivers to evade suspicion or choose their targets. In Chicago, a couple was robbed by a man posing as an Uber driver who pulled a knife on them. In Los Angeles, a man pretended to be an Uber driver to pick up a young woman, who he repeatedly choked to unconsciousness and sexually assaulted before he was found by police. Finally, a Washington man who pimped out a 17-year-old runaway girl from Portland, Oregon initially told police officers he was merely an Uber driver giving her a ride.