Prosecutors: Killer, molester passed Uber background checks

Prosecutors say Uber drivers convicted of murder, sexual assault, driving under the influence and other felonies passed Uber’s “industry-leading” background checks.

Since the filing of the original complaint eight months ago, the Los Angeles and San Francisco district attorney’s offices have received records of Uber drivers who were issued citations by airport police at San Francisco and Los Angeles International Airports and by the Los Angeles Police Department’s Bandit Cab detail.

These records, while representing only a small sample of citations issued to Uber drivers, uncovered more than 25 Uber drivers who had criminal records or driving records that disqualified them from driving for Uber.

These Uber drivers nonetheless passed Uber’s background check, according to an amended complaint filed jointly by the San Francisco and Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office against the San Francisco-based ride service company on Tuesday.

The criminal histories of these drivers include convictions for murder, sex offenses, kidnapping, assault, robbery, burglary, fraud, and identity theft.

Driving records include convictions for driving under the influence, driving with a suspended license, and reckless driving, as well as drivers with more than three DMV points within the preceding three years, according to the complaint.

The amended complaint against Uber alleges that the company allows drivers with disqualifying criminal histories to pass Uber’s background check and that Uber’s background check process fails to uncover many categories of sex offenders.

The complaint further alleges that Uber has misled consumers online and is “making untrue or misleading representations regarding the measures it takes to ensure customer safety in order to induce people to get into a stranger’s car,” among other allegations.

Uber is valued around $50 billion by investors for its services providing prearranged transportation for compensation using an online-enabled smartphone application to connect passengers with drivers.

Last year Uber maintained that at their company “Every ridesharing and livery driver in the U.S. is thoroughly screened through a process that includes county, federal, and multi-state criminal background checks that go back as far as the driver’s state’s law allows, and ongoing reviews of drivers’ motor vehicle records throughout their time driving with Uber,” according to the complaint.

That language has since been watered down, with today’s online version omitting claims such as “thoroughly screened” and “criminal background checks that go back as far as the driver’s state’s law allows.” Joe Sullivan, Uber’s chief security officer, has previously stated that the background checks consist of running an applicant’s name and address through databases identified as “the National Sex Offender Registry, National Criminal Search, and several different databases used to flag suspected terrorists,” according to the complaint.

Uber’s statements that it searches the National Sex Offender Registry are false, according to the complaint, because that particular database is available only to law-enforcement personnel.

Uber uses the National Sex Offender Public Website, which does not detect registered sex offenders such as certain California offenders convicted of child pornography offenses where the victims are between the ages of 16 and 18, sexual exploitation of a child, employment of a minor for sexual exploitation, misdemeanor child molestation, felony sexual battery, and sex offenses against a grandchild, child, stepchild or sibling not involving penetration.

The amended complaint states that Uber’s misleading representations present a special danger to public safety as more and more parents are allowing their teenage children to ride in Uber vehicles unaccompanied.

The complaint alleges:

“Uber’s false and misleading statements are so woven into the fabric of Uber’s safety narrative that they render Uber’s entire safety message misleading.”

Some of the most alarming records uncovered during the discovery period was an Uber driver who was convicted of second-degree murder in Los Angeles in 1982, an Uber Driver who was convicted of committing lewd or lascivious acts against a child under 14 in 1999 and an Uber Driver who was convicted of sexual exploitation of children in Wyoming in 2005.

Other drivers have been convicted of kidnapping for ransom with a firearm, identity theft, and burglary while many more have been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to the amended complaint.

The complaint states that these “systemic failures” with Uber’s background checks even allowed serious and violent felony convictions to go completely unnoticed by the company.