Broward Men Charged in Million Dollar Uber Eats Scam

October 5, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Theft/Property Crimes

Stealing money or property from another person or entity can result in the prosecution for a theft charge. If the theft is a part of an ongoing plan or scheme to steal money from a person or entity, it can result in being charged with a White-Collar Crime such as organized fraud. Both charges should be taken seriously, as they carry harsh penalties for a conviction.

A recent case in Florida resulted in two men being arrested for an alleged crime where they scammed Uber out of more than one million dollars. This page will provide the case details, along with relative information pertaining to how the Uber platform detects and reports incidents of fraud or other alleged crime.

Case Details

The Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) recently arrested two men in August 2023 who they believed scammed Uber out of more than $1,000,000.

According to a news report, the fraud began in January 2022 when Tracy Morgan and Roy Blackwood used the Uber Eats application to act as both a customer and courier. Morgan allegedly placed grocery orders under a fake Uber Eats account, then accepted the order as a courier.

Morgan was then preauthorized with a preloaded credit card for the purchase. During a single purchase Morgan was able to spend up to $700. As the “customer,” Morgan would then cancel the order and purchase a gift card the credit card provided by Uber.

During an eight-month investigation, detectives conducted surveillance of Morgan and Blackwood. On January 24, 2023, police reported that Morgan and Blackwood traveled to 27 different Walgreens locations to commit fraud totaling $5,013.28 for Uber’s losses. In addition to the financial fraud, Morgan is accused of creating fake Uber accounts, even using stolen and fabricated identities of Uber drivers, including their license information with his photo.

Police issued warrants for both suspects on August 7, 2023. Officers with the Palm Beach Gardens Police Department arrested Blackwood on August 16. BSO detectives arrested Morgan in Tarmac on August 22. Both suspects are facing charges of communications fraud and grand theft.

Communications Fraud in Florida

A “Scheme to defraud” is defined under Florida Statute Section 817.034 as a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with the intent to defraud or one or more persons, or with intent to obtain property from one or more persons by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of a future act. Important: A scheme to defraud is an element of communications fraud.

Under Section (4)(b), the offense of communications fraud is defined as any person who engages in a scheme to defraud, and, in furtherance of that scheme, communicates with any person with intent to obtain property from that person.

A defendant charged with communications fraud can face either a misdemeanor or felony. The exact charge and penalties are dependent on the alleged property or financial value that was obtained or endeavored to be obtained through the fraud.

If the value of property obtained or attempted to obtain through the communications fraud was valued as less than $300, it is considered a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor conviction include up to a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail.

If the value of property obtained or attempted to obtain through the communications fraud was valued at $300 or more, it is considered a third-degree felony. The penalties for a third-degree felony include up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

Grand Theft of an App?

Theft is defined as when a person knowingly obtains or uses, or endeavors to obtain or use the property of another person to either temporarily or permanently deprive the owner of their right to said property.

Grand theft is a theft offense where the stolen finances or property is valued at $750 or higher.

A person does not have to commit theft of a physical object to be charged with grand theft. For the example case above, the two defendants were accused of scamming the app Uber Eats. Although it was not from a specific person or was not a physical object, evidence of the financial theft allegedly committed was sufficient to charge them with theft. Since the alleged money scammed out of Uber was above $750, it passes the legal threshold for a charge of grand theft.

Uber Community Guidelines

Uber’s Community Guidelines provide insight into how the company identifies potential fraud.

The following describes Uber’s Key principles for avoiding issues of fraud:

  • Trips should not be prearranged between driver and rider to avoid potential collusion;
  • Collusion is an agreement between two or more people to limit Uber’s open competition by deceiving, misleading, or defrauding others to obtain an unfair market advantage;
  • Fraud is the deliberate deception for securing unfair or unlawful gain; and
  • Fraud may be committed for purposes of monetary gain or other benefits.

When Uber is informed of a violation of their Community Guidelines, they can place an account on hold until it is reviewed further by their support team. Failure to abide by the Community Guidelines can result in an individual losing access to their Uber account(s).

Uber’s Community Guidelines provide that the following actions can result in losing all Uber-related app privileges:

  • Physical Contact
  • Rude or threatening behavior
  • Violating any applicable law
  • Discrimination
  • Fraud
  • Sharing account information
  • Providing inaccurate vehicle information
  • Sexual contact while using Uber apps
  • Sexual assault and misconduct
  • Unwanted contact with user ore driver after trip or delivery

Uber Guidelines for Law Enforcement

Uber’s Public Safety Response Team is part of a specialized group of employees dedicated to working with law enforcement agencies about potential crimes committed through their platform.

According to Uber’s Legal Process Overview, account information may be disclosed to U.S. law enforcement agencies when required under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). The Act prohibits the disclosure of user data without sufficient legal process, such as a subpoena, court order, or search warrant.

Unless prohibited by a lawful non-disclosure agreement, Uber will notify a user of any law enforcement request for their data.

For law enforcement to receive identifying information from Uber Eats, they must abide by one of the minimum legal processes required to obtain such information:

  • With Subpoena – Basic subscriber information or restaurant information; or
  • With a Search Warrant – Contents of communication between users and Uber Eats deliverers.

In cases where Uber has good-faith belief that there is an emergency involving the possibility of death or serious physical injury to someone, they may voluntarily disclose  user data to a U.S. government entity. In order for the emergency disclosure request to be submitted, law enforcement must complete the following:

  • Certify that they are authorized to obtain the requested records;
  • Certify that the request is related to an emergency involving the danger of death or serious physical injury that requires the disclosure without delay of information relating to that emergency;
  • Certify that law enforcement is unable to obtain legal process in time to respond to the emergency; and
  • Accept the Terms and Conditions provided by Uber; and
  • If required by law enforcement, follow up with the legal process.

Uber’s emergency disclosure requests are submitted to the company through the emergency submission portal, which provides a 24/7 emergency response team.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

Theft and White-Collar Crimes are taken very seriously in the state of Florida. If convicted, you could be forced to pay expensive fines and face possible imprisonment. It is important to consider hiring a defense attorney if you or someone you know is facing criminal prosecution. The defense attorneys with Pumphrey Law Firm have extended experience in these types of cases and can assist in building you a defense for your case. Contact our office today at (850) 681-7777 or leave a message on our website for a free consultation.

Written by Karissa Key

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