Harbir Parmar

Photo Courtesy of the FBI, via AP

Queens Uber Driver Charged With Kidnapping Woman

October 17, 2018 - 9:54 am

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- An Uber driver from Queens kidnapped a woman who fell asleep in his car, groped her and then left her on the side of the highway in Connecticut, the FBI said Tuesday.

Harbir Parmar, 24, of Howard Beach, was charged in U.S. District Court with kidnapping.

In court papers, the FBI alleges that Parmar picked up the woman in Manhattan at around 11:30 p.m. on Feb. 21. She originally hailed the ride to take her to her home in White Plains and ended up falling asleep in the back seat of the car.

While she slept, authorities said Parmar changed her destination to an address in Boston, Massachusetts.

The woman woke up later to find the driver “with his hand under her shirt touching the top of her breasts," the FBI said.

Parmar took her phone when she attempted to call the police and continued to drive. She asked him to take her to a police station but he refused, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday.

Parmar eventually left the woman on the side of Interstate 95 in Branford, Connecticut, about an hour's drive east of her home. The complaint said the woman memorized Parmar's license plate and called a cab from a nearby convenience store.

The woman later learned that Uber had charged her more than $1,000 for a trip from New York to Massachusetts. Uber said that amount was later refunded.

Federal authorities and New York police condemned Parmar's behavior as reprehensible.

"No one — man or woman — should fear such an attack when they simply hire a car service," U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said in a statement.

"Parmar made an outrageous choice, deciding to unlawfully take advantage of his passenger at a moment of vulnerability for his own selfish motives," FBI Assistant Director-In-Charge Bill Sweeney said.

"This individual’s behavior goes far beyond ridesharing companies’ efforts to revise their ethics codes and put stronger emphasis on background checks for their drivers. The people we serve deserve much better," NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill sad. "These charges are appalling, and such behavior will never be tolerated by the NYPD or any of our local, state, or federal law enforcement partners.”

Westchester Assemblyman David Buchwald  believes finding out what went wrong in this case could help improve background checks.

"A fingerprint check was done so in and of itself obviously it wasn't sufficient to protect this resident from White Plains," Buchwald said. "I'll be speaking to the Assembly Transportation Committee to find out if there are any other ideas already on the table."

Uber said it blocked Parmar from using the app after the alleged kidnapping occurred.

Federal authorities also charged Parmar with wire fraud, accusing him of overcharging Uber riders by inputting false information about their destinations.

The complaint said he also reported "false information" about cleaning fees that he charged to Uber riders on at least three occasions, including the woman he allegedly groped and left on the side of the road. Parmar later admitted to the FBI that the woman had not vomited in his vehicle, according to the criminal complaint.

The FBI suspects there may be other victims and is asking anyone with information to contact the FBI’s Westchester Resident Agency at (914) 925-3888.

(© WCBS 2018. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)