Crime

Uber Driver Accused Of Raping 14-Year-Old Passenger

| by Michael Doherty

An Uber driver in Kissimmee, Florida, has been arrested after he allegedly raped a 14-year-old female passenger.

The teen requested a ride on May 8, and driver David Pena-Melo, 27, asked her to sit in the front seat, according to WJW. As the ride continued, the man is alleged to have made sexual advances toward the girl, driving past the location where she asked to be dropped off.

Pena-Melo then pulled the car over, forcing the teen to perform a sex act, WTVT reports. Afterwards, he drove her to her destination.

On May 11, detectives met with Pena-Melo, who was cooperative. He was arrested on a charge of sexual battery on a person older than 12 but younger than 18 and booked into jail.

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"We are appalled by what's been reported, and our thoughts are with the family," said a spokesperson for Uber. "This driver has been banned from Uber."

The incident isn't the first case of an Uber driver being accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger. The same weekend saw two similar incidents.

In one of the cases, an Uber driver in Virginia was arrested for abduction and aggravated sexual assault, according to The Sun.

Sewanou Bisile Yoro, 34, picked up the victim on May 6 in Virginia Beach, police said, before he reportedly assaulted her between 9:34 and 10:30 p.m. Yoro had been working for Uber for up to three years, and did not have a criminal record.

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An Uber spokesman confirmed that Yoro had been banned from working for the company.

"The type of conduct that has been described has no place on the app or anywhere," said the spokesman. "The driver has been banned from Uber and we will work with police to provide them with any information that would be useful in their investigation."

Hours later in Jupiter, Florida, in the early hours of May 7, 55-year-old driver Gary Kitchings allegedly kidnapped and sexually assaulted a female passenger.

Kitchings began to flirt with the woman during the ride, according to the police report, and when she attempted to leave the car, he told her that he had a gun. He is reported to have told the woman that if she didn't comply with what he wanted, he would kill her.

Police said that he then sexually assaulted her inside the car. After she arrived at her house and tried to run inside, he pushed her into the home, where he assaulted her again, the police report said.

As he left, the police report said, he told her that he would kill her if she told anyone what happened. After the victim contacted police, Kitchings was arrested for kidnapping, burglary and sexual battery with a deadly weapon.

A group demanding stricter vetting of Uber drivers has commented on the two cases in Florida.

"This week the Florida governor signed legislation permitting Uber to conduct its own background checks on drivers," said David Sutton, a spokesman for WhosDrivingYou.com. "This week two Florida women passengers were reportedly sexually assaulted by Uber drivers. The Florida legislature should move to strengthen screening of Uber drivers by requiring fingerprint checks conducted by law enforcement."

Sources: WJW, WTVT (2), The Sun / Photo credit: FreeStocks.org/Flickr

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