Uber Driver Arrested for Fraud Faces Additional Accusations of Kidnapping and Sexual Assault

April 30, 2024 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Sex Crimes, Violent Crimes

Ride-share apps like Uber and Lyft have increased in popularity within the last few years, offering a cost effective and convenient way of commuting. Taking a ride-share vehicle has plenty of benefits, especially in a crowded city like Miami where people are often out late and drinking.

However, as more people use Uber, the more prominent crimes relating to Uber drivers or riders become. We’ve previously covered the Florida case of an Uber driver attempting to sell mushrooms to undercover police. In a more recent story out of South Florida, a driver is facing multiple charges due to allegations of posing as a fake Uber to kidnap and potentially sexually assault unsuspecting victims.

This page will provide the case details, as well as Uber’s response and safety tips for riders using their app.

Case Details

Police with the City of Miami announced the arrest of Danny Estalin Maurad-Avecillas, 49, for alleged fraud. The suspect was first charged with two counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, along with one count of fraudulent possession of identification earlier in February.

However, Maurad-Avecillas is now being connected to a larger investigation involving an Uber driver operating in a “silver or black SUV” luring women into the car as their fake ride-share driver, then “intoxicating them, robbing them, and possibly sexually assaulting them.”

Police responded to an incident on January 12, 2024, that involved a victim claiming to have woken up naked inside a Miami motel without any memory of having gotten there. The female victim told police she had been visiting from out of state with two male friends, and upon leaving the bar Zari, one of her friends ordered an Uber.

Upon reviewing the CCTV footage, police were able to witness the scene from the previous night that showed the victim and her friend outside of Miami Beach Old City Hall. The victim is seen entering a gray Chevrolet Traverse which then drives away without the other friend. The victim told police that her friend warned her she was not getting in their Uber, but then heard the door shut as the driver drove off.

The victim woke up the next day in a motel with pelvic pain and bruises along her forehead, arms, and behind her right knee. She also realized she was missing $240 from her purse, so she went to a nearby restaurant to call the police.

Through the police investigation, they reviewed more CCTV footage that showed Maurad-Avecillas stopping to get gas before parking at the motel. He attempted to book a motel room but was told he needed a valid ID, so he returned with the victim’s ID and credit card to charge the room.

The arrest affidavit indicated that the motel attendant witnessed the suspect take the victim into the room, claiming that she appeared “intoxicated.” After comparing the CCTV video footage with the time stamps of the victim’s credit card statement, along with matching the Chevy in the video to the car belonging to Maurad-Avecillas, police were able to locate and arrest the suspect.

Shortly after, two more women came forward to police with similar stories. One of the additional victims told police the last thing she remembered was “using the restroom at the nightclub and then waking up at 77 Motel” around 9:30am, despite never having called an Uber that night. The arrest warrant stated that the second victim woke up to bruising on her thighs, along with both her cell phone and Apple Watch missing. When she checked her bank account the next morning, she noticed several charges she never made.

During the interrogation of Maurad-Avecillas, the suspect told police he had picked up a woman on February 19 because she was “being followed by three men” and had offered a ride since he thought they were trying to steal her Apple Watch. The suspect claimed the women was “dizzy, crying and incoherent” so he threw her watch out to avoid her being tracked. He also claimed to police that he dropped the woman off at the motel, and that “this is not the first time something like this has happened to him.”

However upon review of Motel 77’s surveillance, Maurad-Avecillas was depicted exiting a Chevrolet Suburban and “dragging a woman in a pink dress.”

Detectives wrote the following in the warrant:

“He [Maurad-Avecillas] then carries her over his shoulder and into one of the motel rooms. The victim appeared to be unconscious, incoherent and did not have the ability to walk on her own accord as her legs appeared to hang and were dragging on the pavement prior to being carried by [Maurad-Avecillas].”

The suspect has been accused of bringing at least one other victim to Motel 77 in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. Uber confirmed with police that he was one of their drivers but was not online or actively working at the time of the incidents. After his initial arrest, a spokesperson with Uber provided the following statement:

“There are no words to describe this sickening behavior. We removed the driver’s access as soon as this was reported to us and are supporting law enforcement with their investigation.”

Maurad-Avecillas is being held without bond at the Metro West Detention Center while facing the following charges:

If you have any information regarding the situation, contact Miami Police Special Victims Unit at (305) 603-6300.

Uber’s Ride Safer Tips

Given that Uber operates in more than 700 cities across the globe, it is extremely important for them to prioritize rider safety. Uber has recently introduced the Check Your Ride feature in the app to include reminders and push notifications regarding rider safety.

Uber recommends taking the following three steps before entering an Uber:

  1. Check the Uber’s license plate;
  2. Check the Uber’s car make and model; and
  3. Check the Uber driver’s photo on the app.

Additionally, riders can request that the Uber driver tell them the name of the rider they are picking up before entering the vehicle.

Uber’s Community Guidelines prevent unlawful behavior by prohibiting all Uber-related app privileges to a person accused of any of the following:

  • Physical contact;
  • Rude or threatening behavior;
  • Violating Florida law(s);
  • Discrimination;
  • Fraud;
  • Sharing account information;
  • Giving inaccurate motor vehicle information;
  • Sexual contact;
  • Sexual assault; or
  • Unwanted contact from the rider or driver after the trip has ended.

You can read more about Uber’s rules and regulations in our blog post here.

Pumphrey Law Criminal Defense Team

Every Uber ride should be granted a safe and easy trip while using the app. However, if you are an Uber driver or rider that has been accused of an illegal act, consider hiring a Tallahassee criminal defense lawyer with Pumphrey Law. There may be defenses available to help reduce or dismiss the charges against you completely.

Contact our team of defense lawyers by calling (850) 681-7777. We can provide you with a free consultation to review the surrounding facts of your case and work on a plan of action for top-quality defense.

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