A New York woman used a ridesharing app to order a car from Manhattan to White Plains in February, then fell asleep inside the vehicle around 11 p.m., according to authorities.
But as the woman slept, her Uber driver — Harbir Parmar, a 24-year-old from Howard Beach, New York — changed the destination of the woman’s Feb. 21 trip, sending her instead to Boston, Massachusetts, a federal criminal complaint against Parmar said.
The woman soon woke up and found herself next to Parmar in the back seat of his Toyota Highlander, parked on the side of the road, with Parmar reaching his hand up the woman’s shirt and touching her breast, the complaint said. The woman tried using her phone to call for help, but Parmar is accused of grabbing it before she could and refusing to return it.
That’s when Parmar returned to the driver’s set and kept driving, still headed toward Boston even though the woman asked to be driven to a police station or to White Plains, according to the complaint. The woman said she didn’t recognize where she was.
Eventually Parmar let the rider out of the car around 2 a.m., prosecutors said — but he dropped her off on the side of Interstate 95 in Branford, Connecticut, where she had to ask for help at a convenience store. She memorized Parmar’s license plate number before he drove off, authorities said.
Branford is more than 60 miles from White Plains, the woman’s original destination.
A worker at the Bradford convenience store helped the woman call a cab home after the incident, which got her to White Plains in about an hour, the complaint said.
The woman learned that she had been charged $1,047.55 for a New York to Massachusetts journey when she called to report the incident to the ridesharing company the next day, according to the complaint. An Uber spokesman said in an email to McClatchy that the woman’s fare was refunded within days.
Parmar faces charges of kidnapping and wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced on Tuesday in a press release. A conviction on the kidnapping charge carries a sentence of up to life in prison.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement that Parmar “kidnapped, terrorized, and assaulted the woman before dumping her on the side of an interstate. No one – man or woman – should fear such an attack when they simply hire a car service.”
Uber said the driver was quickly removed from the app.
“What’s been reported is horrible and something no person should go through,” Uber spokesman Grant Klinzman said in an emailed statement. “As soon as we became aware, we immediately removed this individual’s access to the platform. We have fully cooperated with law enforcement and will continue to support their investigation.”
Investigators said Parmar may have more victims and encouraged anyone who may be a victim to contact the FBI in New York’s Westchester County.
The investigation also revealed that Parmar sent false information about other riders’ destinations between December 2016 and February 2018 at least 11 times.
Parmar charged customers with false cleaning fees at least three times, resulting in customers filing complaints with the ridesharing company about being overcharged, prosecutors said.
All told, Parmar is responsible for more than $3,600 in improper charges to customers of the ridesharing company.