Uber driver kidnapped and ‘groped’ woman before charging her $1,047 for unwanted 80-mile trip

Driver then dumped victim on side of motorway miles from home, federal prosecutors say

Tim Wyatt
Wednesday 17 October 2018 15:59
comments
Uber condemned the alleged kidnap and assault and said it was co-operating with the authorities
Uber condemned the alleged kidnap and assault and said it was co-operating with the authorities

A woman who says she was kidnapped and then sexually assaulted by her Uber driver was later charged more than a thousand dollars for the journey.

The unnamed victim alleges Harbir Parmar, a 24-year-old from New York, drove her almost 80 miles away from Manhattan – where she was picked up – and then put his hand under her shirt to touch her breasts.

According to charging documents filed in a New York court, Mr Parmar took advantage of the woman after she fell asleep in the back seat of his Toyota Highlander, and fraudulently charged her $1,047 (£800).

He has been charged by federal prosecutors with kidnapping and fraud. If convicted he faces up to life in prison.

The case is likely to reignite a debate over the safety of taxi apps such as Uber.

“No one – man or woman – should fear such an attack when they simply hire a car service,” Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said when he announced the charges.

"Parmar was hired to transport a woman from Manhattan to her home in White Plains. Instead, Parmar kidnapped, terrorised, and assaulted the woman before dumping her on the side of an interstate."

The New York police commissioner, James O'Neill, said: “This individual’s behaviour goes far beyond ride-sharing companies’ efforts to revise their ethics codes and put stronger emphasis on background checks for their drivers.

"The people we serve deserve much better."

Uber said it refunded the massive fee the woman incurred and has banned Mr Parmar from using Uber’s taxi platform since February.

Uber drivers stage strike outside London company offices over employee rights

What’s been reported is horrible and something no person should go through,” the company said in a statement. The firm also said it was co-operating with the police investigation.

The charges say the woman called an Uber in Manhattan late one evening in February to take her home to the suburb of White Plains.

After she fell asleep, however, it is alleged Mr Parmar changed the destination on his Uber app to a location in Boston, Massachusetts, hundreds of miles away.

When the woman woke up she said she discovered the car had stopped and Mr Parmar had got into the back seat with her and was groping her breasts.

She tried to reach her phone to call for help but the driver grabbed her phone from her. He then returned to the front of the car and began driving again, refusing the woman’s desperate requests to be taken to a police station or her home.

She was eventually dropped off by the side of the I-95 motorway near New Haven, 84 miles from where she'd been picked up in Manhattan, and more than 60 miles away from White Plains.

When Mr Parmar appeared before a magistrate in White Plains on Tuesday he was bailed until a later hearing, secured with a $10,000 (£7,600) cash bond deposited by his parents, who were in the courtroom.

The incident was not the first time the driver had billed customers for false destinations, prosecutors said. The charges allege he had put in an incorrect destination to overcharge his passengers 11 times and had also filed $3,600 (2,700) in false cleaning fees.

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Traditional taxi drivers whose businesses have been hit hard by competition from Uber have long claimed the app is unsafe because drivers are not properly vetted.

In London, the Silicon Valley firm temporarily lost its licence to operate after Transport for London ruled it had failed to thoroughly screen its drivers backgrounds and was not reporting serious criminal offences connected with its drivers.

In September Uber won an appeal against the ban and was granted a new probationary 15-month licence.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments