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Man Visiting D.C. Says He Was Kidnapped By Uber Driver

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A man visiting D.C. from New York says his Uber driver took him on a harrowing ride.
Joakim Formo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/joakimformo/12183655143
A man visiting D.C. from New York says his Uber driver took him on a harrowing ride.

A New York man visiting D.C. on business says he was kidnapped by a driver for the on-demand sedan service Uber and taken on a harrowing ride into Virginia.

Ryan Simonetti and two coworkers ordered an Uber Black sedan through the Uber smartphone app Tuesday afternoon near the National Mall. According to sources investigating the incident, an inspector from the D.C. Taxicab Commission noticed the Uber driver’s Virginia license plate and approached him. The Uber driver then floored it, speeding into the 9th Street tunnel and onto 395 into Virginia.

Simonetti, who declined to talk at length about the incident with WAMU 88.5 because he was in the process of pressing charges, said the driver ran red lights and nearly mowed down pedestrians in his panicked flight from Washington.

Simonetti and his fellow passengers pleaded with the Uber driver to slow down or pull over, at one point trying to grab the steering wheel from their backseats to take control of the car, according to sources who spoke with Simonetti about the incident. The driver eventually pulled off 395 to let the passengers out, then drove in reverse the wrong way down a one-way exit ramp to make his escape.

Uber spokesman Taylor Bennett declined to confirm the allegations, but said the driver’s account had been deactivated pending an investigation. Bennett said Uber had not been contacted by police and he refused, citing company privacy policy, to release the driver’s name.

Simonetti said he has no record of the driver’s name or smartphone transaction because the ride was cancelled and there is no trace of it on his device.

The passengers also believed the D.C. Taxicab Commission inspector was an actual police officer. The inspector tried to contact the Metropolitan Police Department to report the incident but could not get through because the radio communications system used by police was down after a power failure at the District’s communications center.

While no information about this driver is known at this time, Uber has been criticized for hiring questionable drivers before. The NBC-TV affiliate in the San Francisco Bay area found that convicted felons passed Uber background checks across the country. In an undercover investigation, the NBC affiliate in Chicago hired drivers for the UberX ridesharing service and found numerous tickets for speeding, illegal stops and running lights in background checks.

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