More Bad News for Uber: Driver Arrested in Los Angeles Rape Case

In the latest in a string of worrisome incidents for the ride-sharing app, LA police have arrested a man who drives for the company, in possible connection with the kidnapping and rape of a 26-year-old woman.

The Daily Beast

A Los Angeles driver for the popular ride-sharing app Uber has reportedly been arrested on suspicion of kidnapping a woman, with the intention of sexually assaulting her, law enforcement said Tuesday.

According to the LAPD, Frederick Dencer, 32, of Encino, was asked by a valet employee at a West Hollywood nightclub to drive a 26-year-woman home. In a statement, Lt. Paul Vernon said that, instead of taking her to her residence, Dencer “took advantage of the situation.” They reportedly ended up in the Panorama Motel in Van Nuys, where Dencer carried the woman into a room and slept with her.

The woman reportedly awoke early the next morning to find Dencer next to her, shirtless. When Dencer tried to “suggest sexual activity,” the woman rejected him.

The woman left the motel and went to a Panorama City 7-Eleven, where she called the police. She reportedly told authorities that she had been bar-hopping the night before, and it was possible that she had used Uber (where she allegedly has an account) to get home.

Although police reputedly contest the claim that the woman used Uber to get home that night, Dencer is an Uber driver. Upon becoming aware of Dencer’s arrest, Uber suspended his account and officials said in a statement, “the facts are unknown at this stage and it's certainly unclear that this is an Uber-related incident, as the driver in question was not logged in, connected to or operating on the platform at the time.”

Tuesday was not a great day for the ride-sharing company. A 28-year-old Uber driver in San Francisco, Daveea Whitmire—who reportedly has a felony conviction—was charged with two misdemeanor battery counts after allegedly getting into an altercation with an UberX passenger.

But Tuesday was hardly the beginning of Uber’s problems with safety and privacy.

In January, when a driver for Uber hit and killed a 6-year-old girl, the company maintained that the driver had not technically been working for them at the time of the incident because he was not logged onto the Uber app, and thus Uber was not responsible for the incident.

Being “logged on” is how Uber defines being on the clock. The family of the girl sued Uber, claiming that the driver was, in fact, logged on to the company’s app.

In March 2013, a 20-year-old passenger in Washington, D.C., accused an Uber driver of rape. In April, prosecutors dropped the investigation.

In November 2013, a San Francisco man alleged that he was physically and verbally abused by an Uber driver.

My own story for The Daily Beast from March recounts my experiences being tracked down by Uber drivers on two separate occasions, and the company lying about their privacy policy. (They do, in fact, provide drivers in most cities with your full name, and, despite claiming to anonymize all phone numbers, one Uber representative told me that numbers are not actually always kept private.)