DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Three drivers with Uber are speaking out after they were arrested by the Los Angeles Police Department in an undercover sting operation.
In an exclusive interview with CBS2’s Erica Nochlin, Roy Freeman, Michael Chadwick and Sid Lomeli say the way they were targeted was nothing short of entrapment. And they say it might scare new Uber drivers away.
All three of these drivers believe the “U” Uber logo in their windshield made them a target during what was supposed to be a typical Friday night on the job in Downtown L.A.
Each of the men said they were flagged down by a woman on the side of the road who was looking for a ride. The drivers explained they stopped to pick the customer up as they thought she could use the app right then and there if they pulled over.
However, the woman did not have the Uber app, and she insisted on having a ride.
The drivers went on to explain she was an undercover cop trying to catch “bandit cabs” who accept off the books rides for cash. Therefore, using the app to order the ride would have been okay.
Uber is a ride service that lets people call drivers using a mobile app on their cell phone via GPS. All payment is handled through the app.
“A lady vigorously waved me down,” Freeman said.
Chadwick interjected, “I almost thought she maybe needed help or something.”
“She said, ‘Uber?!’ according to Lomeli. “I said, ‘Yeah, Uber.'”
Lomeli said, “Then the girl opened my back door. She said, ‘Come on, I really need to go to this place. I really need to go, please.'”
Freeman said, “She said, ‘I have a friend across the street, let me wave her over.'”
“My door was open and, next thing I know, the cops are behind with the sirens on,” Chadwick said.
Police arrested all three drivers and impounded their vehicles.
A Los Angeles Department of Transportation spokesperson confirms the agency participates in these types of operations, along with the LAPD. He says Uber drivers, and many others — such as limo drivers for example — are subject to arrest if a ride isn’t pre-arranged.
“It’s not safe and it’s bad for business,” according to CBS2 legal analyst Steve Meister, who says even Uber drivers are considered bandit cabs if they stop for a passenger off the books. “There’s no accountability for the passenger. There’s no accountability for the driver. And so there has to be regulation in this business.”
But the drivers believe it was entrapment. They say they’ve never asked people before if they needed a ride, and pointed out they have near-perfect customer ratings.
Lomeli said he was made to feel like he was a criminal.
“Bluntly, I think it’s very cruel,” Chadwick said. “This could have been handled in a much better way. This is going to set me back bad.”
The men are going to try and get their vehicles back on Monday.
CBS2 contacted the LAPD for comment but no one familiar with these operations was available this weekend.
Uber was also contacted but didn’t respond in time for this report.