Uber driver with criminal past arrested after British woman diplomat, 30, murdered, left by side of road


December 18th, 2017

A Lebanese Uber driver with “previous criminal violations” was arrested Monday in connection with the murder of a British diplomat, whose body was found on the side of a highway near Beirut over the weekend, according to officials.

Rebecca Dykes, who worked at the British embassy in Lebanon, was found strangled on Saturday after a night out with colleagues. A man was arrested at his apartment after authorities traced his car through security cameras that showed the vehicle traveling from Beirut to the area where Dykes’ body was found, officials said Monday.

The driver, whose name has not been released, confessed to killing the 30-year-old woman. Officials called the murder a “criminal act” that was not politically motivated.

Little information was released about the suspect, but a senior Lebanese security source told Sky News the man was an Uber driver. The ride-sharing company said in a statement Fox News that it is working with authorities in the investigation.

"We are horrified by this senseless act of violence. Our hearts are with the victim and her family. We are working with authorities to assist their investigation in any way they can,” an Uber spokesperson told Fox News.

Police are still investigating the cause of death and whether she was sexually assaulted.  

Dykes met friends and colleagues Friday night at a bar in Beirut’s Gemayze neighborhood, known for its restaurants and pubs where diplomats and journalists are often seen, Sky News reported. She left the bar around midnight, where the driver picked her up and drove her to a nearby neighborhood where she lived — but didn’t drop her off, Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said.

The man then tried to sexually assault her and strangled her with a rope before dumping her body on the side of the highway, NNA reported. Lebanese media added that marks were found on her neck.

When Dykes’ body was found, there were no items pointing to her identity and she had no money or a cellular telephone. Authorities released a drawing of her in order for people who know her to come forward and identify her.

Dykes, who was expected to flying home for Christmas on Saturday, had been working as a program and policy manager at the Department of International Development since January. Her social media page said she was from London, previously attended the University of Manchester and University of London.

Friends told Sky News Dykes was “a very cautious, astute and highly intelligent woman.”

“She had the highest level of security training,” the unidentified friend said. "I know she followed procedures, especially in the job she did. She was very charming, sociable and dedicated to her work.”

The friend added, “She wasn't the kind of girl to be walking around on her own. She was always in control.”

Her family released a statement saying they were “devastated” by the death and requested the media respect their privacy “at this very difficult time.”

"The whole embassy is deeply shocked and saddened by this news," said British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter in a statement, "Our thoughts are with Becky's family, friends and colleagues for their tragic loss."

The murder has shaken Lebanon, where such crimes, particularly against foreigners, are relatively uncommon. Beirut has been considered relatively safe despite recent chaos in the Middle East.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 


Police: Fake Rideshare Driver Scams Passenger For $1K


Police are searching for a fake Uber driver that they say is stealing money from customers by asking for a credit card after claiming there is something wrong with the passenger’s payment.

Police say a Mount Prospect resident was picked up by someone who looked like an Uber driver in Chicago near Clark and Ontario streets. The victim was taken all the way back to Mount Prospect when the driver claimed her payment wouldn’t go through the app. He then demanded she pay with her debit card and required the victim to enter her pin number on his phone, police say. The victim told police a few days later her bank account was short $1,200.

Mount Prospect Police said they are looking for the alleged scammer.

“Everybody needs money for the holidays and some people don’t care how they get it,” said Det. Dirk Ollech. “This victim saw an Uber sticker in the vehicle but those obviously can be obtained through other means.”

Katie Lawson, an Uber customer, said she was upset after hearing about the crime.

“I would be very worried if I were put in that position,” she told NBC 5. “I’m not sure what I would do, but I wouldn’t necessarily hand it over and think that would be OK.”

Since October, Chicago Police have reported several similar incidents, adding up to thousands of dollars from victims. Uber says it offers safety tips for riders to follow—but the police say using common sense is key.

“It seems like maybe people are becoming a little bit too trusting," Ollech said. “Just not following the safety steps.”

 The decal on the window isn’t enough to go by, police say. Uber encourages riders to check the license plate against the one shown in the app, to make sure the driver matches the photo in the app and to ask for the driver’s name—and to never accept solicitations.

Mount Prospect and Chicago police are working together in an ongoing investigation.

Source: Police: Fake Rideshare Driver Scams Passenger For $1K | NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/fake-uber-driver-scam-406372005.html#ixzz4T1Xp3vsp 
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Man posing as Lyft Driver Wanted for Murder


August 10, 2016 5:31 PM By Robbie Owens

CARROLLTON (CBS11) – Arnold Pinilla called for a ride sharing service to get home safely from a Carrollton restaurant in the early morning hours of July 31.

But, the 34-year-old who loved soccer and family gatherings was laterstabbed to death in the street after getting into a car that was driven by an imposter.

“He was a really sweet guy, really happy,” said his mother, Esperanza Balzguera, while wiping away tears as she faced reporters in the family’s Garland home. “He loved to get together.”

As detectives released surveillance video Wednesday of the suspect’s vehicle and a sketch, the family is pleading for someone who recognizes him to come forward.

murder suspect vehicle (surveillance)

“He [the suspect] needs to pay for what he did,” said his sister Claudia Reyes, interpreting for her mother. “She knows that nothing will bring her son back; but, he needs to pay for what he did.”

Relatives insist that the man could not have been anyone that Pinilla knew– as he was a fun-loving, likable person who never got into fights– and was more likely to be seen exchanging hugs and good times instead of disagreements.

“He was the soul of everything,” said Reyes, “always very uplifting.”

According to Carrollton Police, when Pinilla and his girlfriend climbed into the car they quickly realized something was wrong.

“Inside the vehicle, it didn’t look like a ride share car should look. The driver’s behavior wasn’t what it should have been for a professional ride share service. It wasn’t long before they realized they needed to get out of that vehicle,” said Jolene DeVito, Carrollton Police Spokesperson, “unfortunately, it still ended in Arnold’s death.”

Carrollton Police are urging ride share customers to confirm the identities of drivers when using the services but, want to clarify that the driver called to the scene was not involved.

“This was not a LYFT driver, this was not an UBER driver,” said DeVito, “this was someone taking advantage of someone trying to do the right and using a ride service. The real LYFT driver came along shortly thereafter.”

Police say the couple was not robbed- but, the man asked for payment before arguing with Pinilla and fatally stabbing him. Pinilla later died in the street near Myers and Belt Line.

Surveillance cameras positioned nearby captured images of the white four door sedan. The car has a sunroof and tan interior. The suspect is described as a Hispanic man in his mid-30s with a “skinny” build, standing between 5’3″-5″6″. He spoke Spanish; but, with what has been described as a “coastal accent”, perhaps suggesting that he’s a native of Puerto Rico or Cuba.

Meanwhile, the community is being warned.

“He’s willing to kill, so I’d say that he’s pretty dangerous,” said DeVito, “and I’d say we need to find him.”

“We don’t know if he’s done this before… we don’t know if he will do it again,” said Reyes. “If you see him call authorities, because he’s a threat: to all your sons and daughters.”


Woman says Uber driver Molested her


Published 06/07 2016 03:53PM

NORTH SALT LAKE (ABC4 Utah) North Salt Lake Police are investigating a report of an attempted rape by an Uber driver. 

A 42 year old woman told ABC 4 she called for the Uber driver after visiting with friends in Salt Lake City. She doesn't want to be identified so we will call her Julia for this report.

She says the assault began right after she got in the front seat and the car took off. "He immediately started touching my leg with his hand, grabbed my hand, tried to hold my hand." Julia continues "he was saying things like oh your skin is so soft."

As he drove north on I-15 heading to her North Salt Lake home, he became more aggressive according to Julia. "He tried to slide his fingers up my shorts and then tried to rub me down over the top of my shorts."

She says the attempted rape occurred when he pulled up to her house. "He put it in park and immediately takes off his pants and he grabs on my shorts and tries to pull my shorts down."

She pulled away, said no, and started heading for her house. Julia quotes the driver then as saying "come on, you know you want to do this, you want this, you want this."

She ran in the house and called police. North Salt Lake Police tracked down the driver who denied her entire story. That leaves them with a "he said, she said" kind of situation because there's no physical evidence like semen or ripped clothes and there are no eyewitnesses. They say they are treating the report seriously and doing what they call due diligence. When that is complete they will turn their report over to the Davis County Attorney who will decide on possible charges.

Julia told ABC 4 that the driver was dumped by Uber but is still working for Lyft and she worries that he's doing this to other women who may be too embarrassed to come forward.

It's his attitude that make her think she is not his first victim. "It was so easy for him, so natural. He was just so confident and saying you know you want this. And when I got out of the car he was shocked. You know just sitting there with his pants on the ground."

Julia says the man told her he was from Iran. She guesses he's in his mid 30's. The police report identifies the driver as Alireza. If anyone else knows something about the case, call the North Salt Lake Police Department.

Julia warns other women not to sit in the front seat like she did and she thinks it would be much safer to travel in groups when taking transportation like this.


Woman, 24, Robbed by FAKE Manhattan Uber driver who threatened to rape, shoot her



Updated: Wednesday, June 1, 2016, 5:43 AM

A 24-year-woman hoping to catch an Uber ride home to Brooklyn after a night in the East Village stepped into the wrong car — and found herself robbed by an opportunistic creep who threatened to rape and shoot her, cops said Tuesday. 

The victim used her Uber phone app to order a cab to Mangin and E. Houston Sts. at about 1:30 a.m. on May 15, according to police.

But she mistook a stranger’s black four-four sedan for the cab coming to get her, and the driver decided to play along, cop sources said.

When she realized the car was taking her north on the FDR Drive, away from Brooklyn, it was too late. The driver passed the 96th St. exit and demanded her cash, threatening to shoot and sexually assault her, authorities said.

Kevin Smith's daughter almost kidnapped by fake Uber driver

She complied, handing over her iPhone, wallet, $20 in cash, a debit card, a MetroCard, a jacket and a pair of gold earrings. The woman managed to get out the car on E. 125th St. between Park and Madison Aves. The driver exited the highway somewhere in upper Manhattan, cops said.


Uber passenger takes wheel from napping driver, crashes fleeing the cops

By Associated Press

April 5, 2016 | 11:53am

ModaCOLESVILLE, N.Y. — Authorities say an Uber passenger who took the wheel while the driver slept later crashed the car while trying to elude police.

State police say 20-year-old New York City resident Juan Carlos hired the car in Philadelphia to take him 200 miles to central New York.

Police say the driver asked Carlos to take the wheel Saturday while he napped, and a trooper later clocked Carlos going 86 mph in a 65 mph zone on Interstate 81 near Binghamton.

When the real driver woke up and asked Carlos why he was driving so fast, Carlos told him it was because police were chasing them.

Carlos soon crashed. Both suffered minor injuries.

Carlos was charged with fleeing police and driving without a license. It wasn’t clear if he has a lawyer.


Taxi association ad targets Uber, Lyft for lax background checks

The Florida Taxicab Association announced in a Monday email that it had released its second ad attacking ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft for their “lax driver background check procedures.”

“The release comes just hours after a bombshell news report by BuzzFeed that leaked internal documents from Uber show the company may have over 6,000 rape complaints, 5,827 sexual assault complaints and a policy that advises customer service reps handling non-consensual sexual contact cases to ‘determine media interest’ before taking more serious action,” the email states.

“The Florida Taxicab Association believes all vehicle for hire drivers, whether they be taxi, rideshare, or Transportation Network Company (TNC) drivers should be required to pass a Level II background check that includes fingerprinting and Uber drivers should be required to have adequate insurance 24/7.”

The email points readers to a webpage, whosdrivingyou.org, that features a repository of newspaper reports from around the country on ride-sharing assaults, kidnappings and murders. Many of the same headlines pop up in the video.

“It’s hard to imagine some of these stories could be true,” the ad narrator states as headlines scroll across the screen. “There’s no way all these stories are true.  Are they?”

The FTA email said its “Make Ridesharing Safer” ad will air in the Tallahassee and Orlando markets, which will put it up against Uber’s own ad, also announced Monday, pushing for a Senate vote on the House ridesharing bill.

Source: http://floridapolitics.com/archives/203940-taxicab-association-releases-new-ad-targeting-uber-lyft-lax-background-checks

Internal Data Offers Glimpse at Uber Sex Assault Complaints

BuzzFeed News obtained internal data on rapes and sexual assaults lodged via Uber’s customer service system, as the company attempted to find the leaker.

According to data provided by Uber to BuzzFeed News, the company received five claims of rape and “fewer than” 170 claims of sexual assault directly related to an Uber ride as inbound tickets to its customer service database between December 2012 and August 2015.

Uber provided these numbers as a rebuttal to screenshots obtained by BuzzFeed News. The images that were provided by a former Uber customer service representative (CSR) to BuzzFeed News, and subsequently confirmed by multiple other parties, show search queries conducted on Uber’s Zendesk customer support platform from December 2012 through August 2015. Several individual tickets shown in the screenshots have also been confirmed.

After Uber learned of BuzzFeed’s investigation, the company began contacting customer service representatives in its system who had searched the Zendesk database for the terms rape and sexual assault, apparently in a hunt for the leaker.

In one screenshot, a search query for “sexual assault” returns 6,160 Uber customer support tickets. A search for “rape” returns 5,827 individual tickets. Other variations of the terms yield similarly high returns: A search for “assaulted” shows 3,524 tickets, while “sexually assaulted” returns 382 results.

Uber insists the data shown in these images is not an accurate representation of assault complaints made through its platform. Though the company said it could not immediately provide internal statistics for the numbers of rape and sexual assault complaints on its platform, a 24-hour review by Uber’s legal, safety, and data teams concluded that the rape ticket counts obtained by BuzzFeed News are “significantly overstated.”

Uber officials told BuzzFeed News that of these thousands of tickets returned for the keyword “rape,” five meet Uber’s standard of an actual incident related to a trip; Uber declined to further define this standard or expose its methodology. (It’s worth noting these are incidents in its customer service system, not an accounting of all incidents. The number is neither comprehensive nor inclusive). The company suggested a number of reasons a search query for the term would return 5,827 support tickets.

Uber officials suggested that if an email address or rider/driver last name contains the word “rape” like “Jason Rape” or “Don Draper” it will be included when queried. The official noted that 68 riders and 12 drivers have the first or last name “Rape” and claimed that many of them generated multiple tickets during the time period in question. The source also suggested that misspellings of the word “rate” and expressions like “you raped my wallet” accounted for false positives in the search results seen in the obtained screenshots.

However the screenshots obtained by BuzzFeed News show nine complaint tickets with the subject line of “rape.” The nine results in the screenshot do not appear to be the result of misspellings or driver or rider names or emails with a letter sequence of “rape.”

The ride-hail giant repeatedly asserted that the high number of queries from the screenshots is overstated, however Uber declined BuzzFeed News’ request to grant direct access to the data, or view its data analysis procedures. When asked for any additional anonymous data on the five rape complaint tickets it claims to have received between December 2012 and August 2015, Uber declined to provide any information.

Uber also rebutted screenshots that show a search query for “sexual assault” returning 6,160 customer support tickets. Uber officials told BuzzFeed News there were fewer than 170 tickets with a claim of sexual assault. These officials suggested that the thousands of tickets matching that search query may have been caused by “reports from riders who were making claims about sexual assault on other transport services, discussions about sexual assaults in the news, and reports about passengers who got into cars that were not Uber vehicles and were then sexually assaulted.”

The screenshots obtained by BuzzFeed News show at least nine complaint tickets with the subject line of “sexual assault” and at least nine results out of 382 with subjects for “sexually assaulted,” including “uber driver sexually assaulted me,” “sexually assaulted by Uber driver in SF,” “Uber driver sexually assaulted my girlfriend,” and “my daughter sexually assaulted by drive.”

Uber officials told BuzzFeed News that, in the instance of reported rape or assault, CSRs are told to reach out to the person who reported the claim and to escalate to law enforcement as appropriate. Company officials also noted that Uber temporarily deactivates the driver partner or rider during the investigation and that Uber’s technology sends riders the license plate, make, and color of the car, and the driver’s photo and name.

Additional screenshots provided to BuzzFeed News detail the way Uber’s Incident Response Teams are instructed to deal with customer support tickets, which range in severity from Level 1 to Level 4. Nonconsensual sexual contact (or attempts to commit same) fall under Level 3, and are supposed to prompt an investigation. According to Uber’s internal documentation, if an investigation into nonconsensual sexual contact proves inconclusive, a driver receives a “Final Warning”; only if the investigation is conclusive or if the driver receives a second inconclusive strike is he or she deactivated.

Screenshots from Uber’s “Support Logic and Escalations” section inside Zendesk also show that customer service reps handling nonconsensual sexual contact cases should take media and law enforcement interest into account when deciding to escalate cases to higher-ranking employees. “Determine LE/media interest and have Comms/LERT monitor if risk confirmed,” one screenshot reads.


In another customer service screenshot pertaining to confirmed driver alcohol/drug use, support logic instructions suggest that “if rider does not want to escalate with LE (law enforcement) or media, follow strike system, issue warning, and resolve without escalating.”

While the volume of search returns for tickets concerning rape and sexual assault in the screenshots above differ greatly from the numbers Uber provided to BuzzFeed News to rebut them, the high volume of queries under these two keywords provides a window into a particularly vexing problem for customer support representatives already struggling to handle a myriad of rider and driver issues. Simply put: The sheer quantity of these tickets makes it difficult to tell which ones are exaggerations or attempts at false escalations and which are legitimate and urgent requests.

An Uber spokesperson told BuzzFeed News, “we are deeply committed to providing a ride people can trust, and our technology allows us to focus on safety before, during, and after every trip. Even one incident of this nature is one too many.”

Source:  http://www.buzzfeed.com/charliewarzel/internal-data-offers-glimpse-at-uber-sex-assault-complaints#.xlEwQEeEM