back to article Uber driver drove sleeping woman miles away from home to 'up the fare'. Now he's facing years in the clink for kidnapping, fraud

An Uber driver has admitted kidnapping and wire fraud charges after he drove a sleeping passenger at least 60 miles from her destination in order to, seemingly, increase his fare. Harbir Parmar, 25, of Long Beach, New York, pleaded guilty on Monday in a US district court to the pair of charges. According to testimony [PDF] by …

  1. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    Are you kidding?

    "As soon as we became aware, we immediately removed this individual's access to the platform."

    That hardly seems credible. A complaint against such a gross violation would have been lodged by every passenger. Yet the Uber driver admitted to doing this multiple times. It just doesn't add up. Or were Uber talking about removing the passenger's access !?!

    1. Simon B-52

      Sick sad world.

      It is odd, certainly, though the perpetrator may have chosen his victims astutely, we don't know.

      However, I don't recall Uber having an exactly laudable record in areas that this touches on.

      Hopefully this shit has been caught before upping his game to murder, he's probably going to some hell hole US prison. Depending on what he's convicted of, he might not last too long there.

      Sick sad world.

    2. Griffo

      Re: Are you kidding?

      Have you ever tried to contact Uber support to lodge a complain against a driver?

      Despite what they "advertise" they make it almost impossible, and generally always side with the driver. They are a nightmare. I can totally believe that they would have ignored prior complaints.

    3. Mycho Silver badge

      Re: Are you kidding?

      He admitted changing the destination 11 times. Logic would say that he did less previously, say letting someone out at their home, changing the destination to a mile away, driving there and signing the journey completed. I make his rate to be around $15 per mile so the odd extra mile would be large enough to be worth it but small enough that people might not complain.

      Then somebody fell asleep in his car and he got greedy.

    4. Paul 195
      Flame

      Re: Are you kidding?

      Uber have some of the lowest ethical standards to be found in the corporate world. In the past their attitude towards complaints has been generally to . blame the victim. Remember this story about the women who got raped by an Uber driver in India: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42291495

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Are you kidding?

        "Uber have some of the lowest ethical standards to be found in the corporate world."

        And it's a competitive world out there.

        1. cat_mara
          Coat

          Re: Are you kidding?

          And it's a competitive world...

          Thanks, now I'll have "Everything Counts" by Depeche Mode stuck in my head all day.

          Mine's the leather bondage vest, ta ...

        2. Paul 195

          Re: Are you kidding?

          @Doctor Syntax

          Ain't it the truth. I sometimes think the main purpose of Uber is to make the other tech club titans look more palatable.

    5. k.l

      Welcome to Uber

      In my experiences with Uber they do NOT care until the police are involved, and only then when something serious has happened. Then they pretend this was the first they heard of the problem but are right on top of fixing it.

      I had an Uber driver do the classic creep on my way to a friend's building (including very obviously trying to figure out if I lived there). He then stayed outside the building for two (!) hours. The next day I also saw him waiting outside the campus building he picked me up at. I reported all of that and nothing happened.

      My friend spotted him a couple of other times around the building, then two weeks later he was arrested for breaking into the building and being aggressive. I reported this again with the police report. Nothing. He wasn't charged (not really clear if the building or the police didn't want to), so that was that. Uber didn't care.

      About two years later he was convicted of raping a passenger. So yeah. It's just an anecdote from my life, but this article does not seem like an isolated incident. Plus I've heard many other stories of reports doing nothing.

      1. Colin Ritman
        FAIL

        Re: Welcome to Uber

        John Worboys say hi....

        So essentially this boils down to: Any private hire or taxi driver is potentially capable of these things, do you trust a un-tracked, anonymous black cab, or a tracked, uber with a confirmed registration plate...

        I know which one I would pick.

        1. Amentheist
          FAIL

          Re: Welcome to Uber

          The point is that said tracked 'confirmed registration' app's business entity repeatedly falls short of assisting authorities and end customers.....

        2. k.l

          Re: Welcome to Uber

          My point was the company doesn't seem to take reports against drivers seriously, or even listen to them at all, and that really hurts my opinion of them. There seems to be ample warning before these things happen, if they'd just listen. It doesn't mean that taxis are better though, hell taxis here have the exact same problem. TBH I've just stopped using all services like that while I'm alone, for my own peace of mind.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Welcome to Uber

          That's rubbish. You've really contradicted yourself there. I need add no more other than I am a UK private hire driver, subject to an expensive licence, medical and extensive criminal record checks by my council licensing authority. My company vehicle also has to have a licence (confirmed registration plate?) and is also tracked. This is separate from the dispatch app. that also utilises GPS to issue the bookings. Any wrong-doing jeopardises the licence. I respect my passengers and take care of them. How you can even remotely compare THAT scenario with the likes of the scum that Uber use is beyond me and I take offence at being compared to them.

          1. Irongut
            Pint

            Re: Welcome to Uber

            If I could give you more than one up-vote I would. Have a pint for the trustworthy and valuable service you provide.

          2. Boo Radley

            Re: Welcome to Uber

            Ditto to what you just said. I'm a private hire driver and we keep very high standards and take any complaints very seriously. We won't do anything to risk our licenses.

        4. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Welcome to Uber

          Given that Uber as a corporation is villainous scum, and that they are predisposed to protect drivers who engage in even egregious actions, I think the "anonymous" cab is a much better bet.

          Your area may differ, but in my area all cabs are licensed and tracked, and all cab drivers undergo background checks and must be recertified on a regular basis. Even as a customer, you can get live updates of where the cab is from the time it's dispatched to pick you up to the time you're dropped off.

  2. 89724102172714182892114I7551670349743096734346773478647892349863592355648544996312855148587659264921

    You get the weirdest workers when merely paying minimum wage

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Right... what all the higher ups who have been busted on various misdeeds? Some of the stuff they've pulled should have landed them in jail for a long time also but they usually get off with a slap on the wrist. Some of the stories coming out are just as bad as this one....

    2. Simon B-52

      Utter crap

      Some of the nicest and most decent people I've ever met have been on minimum wage. Some of the vilest have been rich.

      No hard and fast correlation, but if you think that "minimum wage = chav scum" then it seems likely that you're desperately inadequate and full of crap to boot.

    3. Frank Bitterlich

      "You get the weirdest workers..."

      I'ts the other way around. Businesses that operate on shady/questionable business models tend to pay only minimum wages for their minions.

  3. Blockchain commentard Silver badge
    Facepalm

    How did he pass Uber's strict and exhaustive security checks they do for their drivers?

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      How did he pass Uber's strict and exhaustive security checks

      "It said "Write name here." Well, I made a spelling mistake and they said that's OK, if you spelt your name properly you would be overqualified."

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Because, like anything related to criminal checks, all they prove is that you *haven't been caught* before.

      By definition, every criminal on the planet was in that state at one point in their life, and many of them managed to commit multiple crimes before they were actually caught.

      This is how you end up with celebrities who go 30-40 years without a criminal conviction and then it all comes out many years later quite how much they've been doing. It doesn't mean that they were ever very nice people at all.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Facepalm

        This is America, everything is legal in America until you get caught.

        What's puzzling about this is that Uber is still around ... they simply fire the drivers and blame them but look back at how many times that Uber has been caught doing horrendous things - is their corporate HR policy based on The Art of The Deal?

        1. the Jim bloke Silver badge
          Mushroom

          they cant "fire the driver"

          because that would imply the driver was an employee, and Uber had some responsibility for their actions..

          Uber is all "Mission Impossible", with all their drivers being told if they get caught - Uber doesnt know them, and this briefing will self-destruct in *

    3. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      As we see here, it doesn't really matter as Uber isn't considered as partly liable. Great new economy we have, isn't it?

    4. chivo243 Silver badge
      Devil

      Aw, you know, everybody is straight as an arrow when the become an Uber driver, but when the grind of the crappy job get to you, and you start sharing ideas with other Uber drivers, you pick up a few pointers!

      1. 's water music Silver badge

        ...and you start sharing ideas with other Uber drivers, you pick up a few pointers

        but they ban the few bad apples that make it through screening so you would only 'pick up pointers' from ex drivers Shirley

        1. Wexford

          I'm sure social media facilitates the exchange of all sorts of dodgy tips between current *and* former participants in this and any other industry. And stop calling me Shirley.

  4. J J Carter Silver badge

    Send him down

    Hope he enjoys 'ride sharing' with Bubba, up at the penitentiary.

    1. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Send him down

      Can we just stop with the rape jokes? I used to think they were funny, but they aren't any longer, and they also aren't in the slightest way original.

      Also, they imply that all rapists are called Bubba, which is unlikely to be true.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Send him down

        Shut up, Bubba.

      2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: Send him down

        My car is affectionately called 'Bubba'. The reg number ends in 'BZB' so originally it was Beelzebub, but that was a bit of a mouthful. So it's now 'Bubba'. It is a 4x4,.... but not a pick up.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Send him down

          What;s the relevance?

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Send him down

          It is a 4x4,.... but not a pick up

          We're trying to have a serious discussion about prison rapist nomenclature and you had to throw in a pick-up line?

      3. Boo Radley

        Re: Send him down

        That's true, my name's Boo.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: Send him down

      Bubba don't share with nobody...

  5. Mr Dogshit

    Perhaps there's a gap in the market here for a service whereby you're driven to your destination by a driver who has been vetted and licensed. It could be called a "taxi".

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Too disruptive. Silicon Valley would never stand for the threat to their business model.

    2. Steve 53

      ... But John Worboys ...

      1. Ochib

        "But John Worboys "

        Wasn't he a black cab driver? I thought black cab drivers had to pass CRB/DBS checks.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            "racist"

            Hmmm, no hint of irony or joking, so I can only assume you have no idea what a black cab is.

            Does this mean NY cabs are racists for being yellow?

            1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

              "Does this mean NY cabs are racists for being yellow?"

              No; it just means that they're more scared of their passengers than their passengers are of them, which is as it should be. I mean, there's a reason that New York cabs have steel and plexiglas barriers between the front and back seats.

            2. Wexford

              I think the joke (if it was one) is a structural one. "Black cab driver" could be "a driver of cabs, who is black" or "a driver of black coloured cabs". By deliberately misinterpreting the intended noun phrase (the latter option), the joke is that the commenter above was being racist.

              1. Simon B-52

                Scope for confusion

                With the number of unknowns in play, there's massive scope for misunderstanding here:

                1. English or USish, with no spoken accent to indicate.

                2. Ironic or Not

                3. Racism being both commonplace and often the easiest stick to beat someone with, realising the greatest uncritical mob-response.

                In case the original poster (of 'Racist') hasn't yet caught on, in London, taxis are black, and usually referred to as 'Black Cabs'. As far as I can remember, most taxi drivers who swore at me as I rode past them through the traffic were white.

                1. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
                  Coat

                  Re: Scope for confusion

                  We're equal opportunities in my city. We have black and white taxis.

                  Mines the one with the A to Z of Leeds in the pocket.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          If you pass them all THEN become a rapist it's of little use

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      If you happen to have watched last night's episode of "24 hours in police custody," you'll have seen a perfect example of why someone being a vetted and licensed taxi, or private hire, driver doesn't protect people to any greater degree. At the end of the program, the creep in question (a taxi driver who had raped a 15 year-old child, and a young woman) got a 22 year custodial sentence.

      I think that maybe Uber's vetting process is no better or worse than that of licensed drivers. After all, the best it will ever manage is filtering drivers who have not (yet) been convicted of anything. The real root of the problem is twofold; passengers implicitly trust the stranger driving them around because of deference to authority, and we live in a culture where peope turn a blind eye to rape, sexual assualt, and other forms of violence. You can't do much about the former, but you can improve the situation of the latter with education.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        My guess is the taxi vetting process may be a little, very little, more stringent than Uber simply because of the enormous sum of money it takes to acquire a taxi medallion and the desire to keep that medallion means drivers typically aren't afforded any where near as much slack as a typical Uberer(?) appears to be.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        "I think that maybe Uber's vetting process is no better or worse than that of licensed drivers"

        That could be, but do you know what is absolutely worse when it comes to Uber? That in a real cab, there are real consequences both to the driver and the cab company for egregious misbehavior. This gives cab companies strong incentive to not overlook bad cabbies. Uber has no such incentive (in fact, I think the incentive Uber has is to do the opposite).

    4. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      I'm not sure that would work as well as you think it might.

    5. Keven E

      It's a taxi ordering service

      The US Attorney still calling it "ridesharing" is perpetuating the same BS we usually refer to as "fake news".

  6. Arthur the cat Silver badge

    Wire fraud

    Can a US person comment on this please? Am I right in thinking wire fraud covers just about anything involving money and a state boundary, so acts as a catch-all charge even if the authorities can't think of anything else to charge you with?

    1. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Wire fraud

      I'm British, but searching it comes up with this as a definition.

      financial fraud involving the use of telecommunications or information technology.

      Which would appear to fit, given that information technology was used to change the destination to commit financial fraud.

    2. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Wire fraud

      "Am I right in thinking wire fraud covers just about anything involving money and a state boundary, so acts as a catch-all charge even if the authorities can't think of anything else to charge you with?"

      Not quite, money doesn't actually need to be involved. Wire fraud is literally anything involving any kind of fraud or planning for fraud when at some point any communication involving wires, radio or electronic communication crosses state or country boundaries. Mail fraud covers everything else, when either communication or property crosses boundaries in physical form. The original legislation dates back to the '40s and '50s when it might have made more sense, but these days it's virtually impossible to commit any crime without also being guilty of wire fraud. Specifically:

      "Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice"

      If you so much as visit a website or check google maps, you've transmitted a signal across state lines. Do so while thinking about maybe coming up with a plan to commit any kind of con, and you're guilty of wire fraud.

      1. Fatman Silver badge

        Re: Wire fraud

        <quote>"Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice"</quote>

        Note: Emphasis mine.)

        Then please tell me why advertisers are NOT locked up for 'wire fraud'????

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Wire fraud

          Then please tell me why advertisers are NOT locked up for 'wire fraud'????

          Money.

      2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Wire fraud

        So really the wire fraud law is about as relevant to modern Murka as the laws about compulsory longbow practice on a Sunday are relevant to England. Perhaps time for an update, although it does seem to be useful.

        Although...some 'antiquated' laws can often still be appropriate. There were many laws in C19 UK about driving horses and carts - furious driving, not in control, no registration plate, no light at night, going too fast etc - and they all still exist for cars.

        1. Irongut

          Re: Wire fraud

          I believe the longbow practice law was rescinded, along with other similar ancient laws, by former PM Tony B. Liar and his Nu crew.

      3. Stevie Silver badge

        Re: it's virtually impossible to commit any crime without also being guilty of wire fraud

        Just as it used to be impossible to be at fault in an accident and not get slapped with a "without DC&A" citation as well as whatever else the Bow St Runners could bang you dead to rights for.

        I have no problem with wire/mail fraud being tacked onto other charges brought against alleged criminals.

      4. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Wire fraud

        So everything else he did was OK under american law, he just got caught because he used a telephone ?

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Wire fraud

          Not exactly. In the US, things like assault, rape, murder, etc., are covered by state law, not federal law (generally speaking). Wire fraud, however, is a federal crime rather than a state crime.

          Charging him with wire fraud makes it possible for the US government to prosecute him in addition to the state.

  7. Baldrickk Silver badge
    Stop

    Reason #4567 why I will not get an Uber anywhere.

    The complete lack of proper vetting and oversight is appalling.

    1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

      re: The complete lack of proper vetting

      It would solve a lot some of Ubers problems if all the drivers were "fixed"

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    20+ years?

    Not 47 months then?

    He should stick to High Treason next time.

  9. DontFeedTheTrolls
    Coat

    Are Uber going to refund *all* of this drivers previous fares? If he's cheated on the 11 known fares then how can any of his claimed journeys be trusted?

  10. DrXym Silver badge

    And he would have gotten away with it too

    If not for the electronic record demonstrating exactly what he did.

    Seriously though, this is why private services like Uber are so horribly dangerous. Licensed taxis drivers generally undergo greater background and "good character" checks, usually by the police, because the public's safety is a priority.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: And he would have gotten away with it too

      You'd be surprised at how little some of those checks are here in the UK, whichy vary according to location. There's also the distinction between taxis and private hire vehicles, with often lesser checks for the latter, and done by local authorities which don't communicate with each other. Ther are plenty of recoded cases of someone being refused a private hire license in one town, due to failed checks, so getting one in the next town over. you're also never going to filter out those with no prior convictions. Take pretty much any serial killer as an example of why not yet being convicted of anything doesn't mean you're safe to drive a taxi...

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: And he would have gotten away with it too

        I'm sure there are problems with taxi regulation. It doesn't excuse even worse, zero regulation which is what Uber entails. Almost anybody can be a driver and there is little redress for complaint either.

        Most UK councils will at least require you present your medical history, criminal and motoring convictions. And if you operate a taxi without a license, or fraudulently obtain a license you could end up being convicted.

        Personally I think having councils do this vetting is highly inconsistent. Even if the councile issues the license, the actual vetting and standards applied should be consistent across the board with databases that track applicants trying to game one authority against another.

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: And he would have gotten away with it too

          I can't say I disagree with you, but the flip side to this is that nominally, all Uber trips are logged electronically, whereas getting in a taxi in the town centre when you're pissed as a fart has no audit trail whatsoever. It occurs to me that the best of all worlds would involve mandatory centralised real-time tracking (via GPS) of all taxis, and better regulation of private hire vehicles (which is what Uber basically is) so that the information they hold on journeys is readily available to law enforcement and licensing agencies.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And he would have gotten away with it too

          This isn't about vetting systems. All vetting systems are imperfect, if only because criminal records checks don't help you when the person involved just hasn't been caught yet.

          The actual issue here is that when something happens during an Uber ride they make it very difficult to raise a complaint and then stack the process against the complainant - basically sitting there with hands in ears shouting "I can't hear you" until you give up and go away. Uber just want to be a "ride sharing" co-ordinator, skim their fees from the top in return for thir booking software, and to hell with everything else. The fact they pretend to vet their drivers is solely to try and mollify local authorities who would otherwise ban them. Proper licensing authorities pay attention to complaints - maintaining a level of accountability and trust is the whole reason for their existence.

          In practice don't have many worries about using Uber. Most of their drivers where I live turn out to be licensed private hire operators anyway - they need to be on Uber as well in order to generate enough business to get by. Of course, if there were a problem I would be calling the private license authority first, not Uber.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Bill Michaelson

    I didn't know the driver could change the destination.

    Live and learn.

  12. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    IANAL, but I'd say Uber is liable for all damages by that driver from the date the first complaint was filed (or attempted to be filed, or reported by phone). It must be their duty to follow up on complaints. No matter what weasel-words they put in their user agreement. No slight intended against any Mustela.

  13. Gustavo Fring

    it is also

    Not unknown for black yellow and private hire people to rent let out or otherwise lend their "identity" to others. I've seen it done for Black cabs , so it includes the vehicle ...

    what about WASP cabs ... Could be both Black and yellow stripes ?

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