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 FBI Agent James Menton, in February last year, Parmar abducted, allegedly sexually assaulted, and refused to release his victim after she requested he drive her 25 miles from Manhattan to her then home in White Plains, New York.
Agent Menton said the woman booked the journey using the ride-sharing app on her cellphone, and was picked up around 11.30pm. Once inside, she fell asleep in the back of the car. This was when Parmar changed the destination of the trip from White Plains to Boston, some 200 miles away, via the Uber app on his phone, and took off in that direction, according to the FBI agent.
At some point Parmar stopped the car: according to court documents, the woman told Agent Menton she awoke to Parmar groping her under her shirt in the back seat of the car, and he took her phone when she tried to call for help. She said she never got her device back.
Parmar returned to the front seat, and resumed the trip, at which point the victim said she no longer recognized her surroundings. After she demanded to be taken home or to a police station, both of which requests were ignored, Parmar eventually pulled over in Branford, Connecticut, at around 2am. She escaped from the vehicle, managed to memorize his number plate, and made it to a nearby convenience store, where she asked an employee to help call her a cab to White Plains, some 60 miles away. It wasn't until 3.30am that she finally made it home.
The nightmare ordeal didn't end there, however. The next day, the woman phoned Uber to complain, and was told Parmar had reported a completed trip to Massachusetts, and was trying to charge her $1,047.55 in fares. Additionally, he said that the victim had been sick in his car, and was trying to claim a cleaning fee.
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The FBI tracked the licence plate she had memorized to Parmar, and found that various records – from the app's ride history to cellphone location data – corroborated the victim's allegations of kidnapping.
In July 2018, Parmar admitted to agents not only changing the destination of the trip that night, but that he similarly changed riders' destinations on at least 11 other journeys between December 2016 and February 2018 to fraudulently increase their fares. He had also filed at least three false claims for cleaning fees over that same period. He also confessed that his victim that night in February in New York had not been sick in his vehicle.
In all, according to the Feds, he had claimed more than $3,600 in bogus charges via the ride-sharing app during those 14 or so months. He was arrested in October.
"Last year, Harbir Parmar took advantage of a vulnerable woman who utilized a ridesharing service by kidnapping and terrorizing her. In addition, he charged many of his ridesharing customers with fraudulent fees," US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said following the scumbag's guilty pleas earlier today.
"Today, he admitted his guilt in open court, and will now be held accountable for his brazen crimes."
Parmar faces potentially as long as life behind bars for kidnapping, while the wire fraud conviction carries up to 20 years. Parmar is due to be sentenced on June 24 in the Manhattan Southern New York US District court by Judge Vincent Briccetti.
"What’s been reported is horrible and something no person should go through," a spokesperson for Uber told us today. "As soon as we became aware, we immediately removed this individual's access to the platform." ®