Huntington Beach Uber Driver Samer Mahran Rapes Passenger
In a current, ongoing news story, 23-year-old Uber driver Samer Alaaeldin Mahran of Huntington Beach, CA is accused of raping his unconscious passenger, a Laguna Beach, CA 17-year-old girl. A horrible story, to be sure. Unfortunately, new technology brings new problems, or at least the same old problems, with a new way for molesters to meet victims. The story has been reported up and down the west coast, in the LA Times, the Orange County Register, the Santa Cruz Sentinel and the Napa Valley register, just to name a few, not to mention that the news traveled across the country to the east coast’s Washington Post, the New York Daily News, Fox 29 in Philadelphia, and even across the ocean to the UK’s Daily Mail.
SAMEER MAHRAN’S UBER FARE OF SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 2016
According to authorities, the young girl was in a Huntington Beach bar early Saturday morning. Perhaps being under age in a bar is a topic for another day, as on this day, the girl’s parents were smart enough to use the Uber app to hire a driver for her, so that she could get home safely. They became concerned, naturally, when she didn’t arrive in the expected amount of time. In no one’s book does “getting home safely” include what the father found when he tracked the car on Uber’s app – his now-unconscious daughter along with the driver in the back seat of the parked car not too far from their Laguna Beach home. As her father helped her out of the Uber and got her home safely, police used Mahran’s Uber profile description to find him at his Huntington Beach home, after he had run from the scene.
Laguna Beach Police Sergeant Tim Kleiser said that police were called at 2:30 that morning regarding the sexual assault in the Uber, and that driver Mahran had worked for Uber for less than a year.
The Orange County District Attorney’s office is investigating this case as Mahran awaits his December 2 arraignment while out on $100,000 bond. If the prosecution has its way, Mahran will face the 28-year maximum sentence.
According to reports, Uber spokeswoman Tracey Breeden said Mahran has been banned permanently from using the app. Headquartered in San Francisco, Uber indicates that it screens drivers’ criminal histories and goes back seven years. That said, a number of its drivers have been accused of sexual assault and other crimes against passengers during rides, including driver Omar Mahmoud Mousa of Anaheim, charged in January 2016 with raping a passenger in a motel after giving her a ride from a bar in Fullerton. Uber has certainly been scrutinized for these and other high profile incidents – in fact the Uber site has an article entitled Details on Safety, written in July of 2015 and updated in May of 2016. In the article, Uber mentions that it is impossible to guarantee every customer’s safety, and notes that “no means of transportation can ever be 100% safe. Accidents and incidents will always happen.”
THE MANY DANGERS INVOLVED IN BEING AN UBER PASSENGER
Stacy Perman, writing for Marie Claire magazine, asks the question “Is Uber Dangerous for Women?” and the answer by many seems to be “Yes” with good reason. In this case, the parents used their own Uber app to solicit the driver for their daughter, but in most cases, the passenger connects, on his or her own device, with the Uber driver. Just imagine for a moment that the only way to “track” where you are located resides on your Smartphone, in your hands. If you become unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise prevented from using your phone — and the driver has nefarious intentions — no one will alert your family and friends, no one will alert Uber. Even if someone knows you’re in an Uber and is worried about you, the chances your loved one knows your screen name, the email with which you signed up, and your password are slim. The young girl who was sexually assaulted is, in one sense, extremely lucky that her parents had access to her whereabouts.
Meanwhile, let’s not assume that sexual assault is the only danger to an Uber passenger. Who’s Driving You keeps tabs on incidents in Uber and Lyft cars, and their incident listing is quite robust, showing incidents including:
- Sexual Assaults
- Riding with Felons
- Riding with Imposters Pretending to be Uber or Lyft Drivers
- DUIs and DWIsReferring back to how Uber’s own site noted that no form of transportation is 100% safe, it’s just so important to be aware, to realize who is driving you, and to have a method of keeping loved ones aware — and updated — as to your whereabouts.
HURDLES INHERENT TO THE BUSINESS MODEL OF AN APP THAT CONNECTS PEOPLE
Remember that fatal and harmful incidents have happened, occasionally, if one person in an interaction gets overly emotional or upset in situations as benign as a parking spot dispute or a road-rage incident. Imagine how the risks could escalate in a business model that specifically connects two parties, where the parties are previously unknown to each other. Think eBay.com, where a buyer and a seller are connecting, Match.com, where singles are connecting, and various other portals that connect babysitters and parents, tutors with students, and connections for many other types of temporary or permanent relationships. Of course the hurdles grow as the business grows.
- One party paying unrefunded money on the transaction
- One party providing a service and not getting paid
- One party proving a product and not getting paid or reimbursed
- One party not receiving the service ordered
- One party stealing the identity of the other
- One party cyber-bullying or cyber-stalking the otherHurdles increase if the two parties meet in-person to exchange the goods or services:
- One party harming, assaulting or killing the other
- One party damaging the property of the other (not necessarily the property being transferred)
- One party stealing the property of the other
- One party kidnapping the other
- One party physically threatening, stalking or harassing the other
- One party physically threatening, stalking or harassing the otherThe business of Uber and its competitors is growing, and the growth is unlikely to stop any time soon. It behooves consumers to be aware of the inherent dangers, and hurdles involved in the system, so they can make smart decisions for their safety.