Working parents have their hands full. Between their responsibilities at work, taking care of household chores like cooking and cleaning, and running around chauffeuring kids from school to after-school activities, parents are so busy that things are bound to slip through the cracks sometimes.
So when ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft came out and offered lower fares than traditional taxi services, it looked like a perfect way for parents to transport their kids to and from school, sports, and playdates. But one Florida mom learned that convenience sometimes comes at a heavy price…
One Davie, Florida mom works hard to support her family by holding down a full-time job. But her job made it difficult to also be a full-time mom to her 16-year-old son, and be there for him to drive him to and from school each day.
A Little Help
So when the Davie woman, whose name has not been revealed to the public, heard about a ride-sharing company, Lyft, she thought it would be a perfect way to make sure her son always had a ride home from school on the days she couldn’t get out of work in time to pick him up…
Worked Like A Charm
At first, the woman loved that the the app was easy for her son to use on his phone, had cheap fares, and could automatically be charged to her account. Aside from being easy to use, it also took away the burden of having to be her son’s personal chauffeur.
What the Davie woman, and other parents across the country, didn’t realize, was that they were unintentionally putting their children at risk by sending them off all alone in a car driven by a complete stranger with absolutely no way to protect themselves…
Ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Uber assure passengers that their drivers are subjected to background checks and are carefully assessed before being hired to drive for their company. Yet there are countless news reports of drivers from these companies endangering or assaulting their passengers.
Slip Through The Cracks
“Obviously, people can either slip through the cracks, or the companies aren’t doing their due diligence to investigate these people and who they are,” Davie Police Capt. Dale Engle said about the dangerous people that get hired by ride-sharing companies…
The Davie mother, and other parents, had no idea the kind of risk she was taking by putting her son, whose name has been kept confidential, in a car with a complete stranger. Unfortunately, she didn’t learn the truth until it was already too late.
Getting A Lyft
After school let out on a Tuesday afternoon, the 16-year-old opened the Lyft app on his phone like he normally did and ordered a ride from school to his house since his mom was still at work. When the pink Nissan Sentra that belonged to his assigned driver pulled up, he got in the car without thinking twice about the risk he was taking…
The Risk Is Revealed
However, it was a decision the 16-year-old and his mother would come to regret for the rest of their lives after the 43-year-old driver, who has been identified by police as Julio C. Perez, ended up sexually assaulting the teenage student.
According to the boy, Perez acted completely normal during the drive and dropped him off outside of his home like he had requested. Perez then drove off in his pink Nissan but returned to the boy’s home about 10 minutes later…
Perez knocked on the door and began making suggestive advances towards the boy by telling him he was very attractive and asking if he was attracted to boys. Perez then leaned in to kiss the boy, who let him inside out of fear he would try to force his way inside.
Once inside, Perez sexually battered the teen. “[Perez] was able to coerce his way into getting into the residence. Once inside the residence he forced the boy to perform oral sex on him,” Davie Police Cpt. Engle said. As Perez was leaving, he left a business card and told the boy he’d like to pick him up from school again…
The boy was traumatized by what had just happened but bravely came forward to his mom about the incident when she got home. When asked why he didn’t fight back, the 16-year-old explained he was afraid that if he didn’t do what Perez was telling him to do, he’d be subjected to something worse.
A Mother’s Fury
The boy’s mother was understandably furious when she heard what happened and immediately called the police to report that her son had been sexually assaulted. “He’s a pervert. That’s what he is. He’s a pervert,” the mom said. “Emotionally, I’m a wreck … I’m feeling helpless…”
At first, Lyft refused to give the police Perez’s information but complied when they issued a subpoena. “We are horrified by these allegations,” Kate Margolis, a Lyft corporate communications spokeswoman, said. “We deactivated the driver as soon as this was reported, and stand ready to support the passenger and his family.”
With Lyft’s help, the police managed to track Perez down and arrested him a day after the sexual assault occurred. Once in custody, Perez admitted to sexually assaulting the boy, who he thought was just 12 years old. “So he knew that he was underage,” said Capt. Engle, who believes Perez has done this before. “The confidence Perez displayed in returning to the residence leads us to believe there may be other victims out there…”
According to Lyft’s policies, drivers are not allowed to be driven without an adult present. “Children are welcome to join adult passengers in a ride, but aren’t permitted to ride alone in a Lyft vehicle,” Lyft’s terms of service explains. Unfortunately, it’s up to the driver to check and see if the passenger is a minor.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Lyft also claims they have a lengthy screening process for drivers that includes criminal background checks, driving record checks, and a 50-state sex offender registry check. But clearly, this is no guarantee of safety and it didn’t stop Perez from preying on a young boy…
Scarred For Life
Because of the 16-year-old’s bravery, Perez was arrested and can no longer prey on anyone else. Yet the trauma has left its mark on the boy. “Emotionally, I’m a wreck. I haven’t gone to work in three days already,” the teen’s mom said. “I have to go pick my son from school every day. My son doesn’t feel safe anymore. It’s just horrible.”
Police have pointed out that this is a perfect example of why parents need to be aware of the risk. “I wish Lyft would’ve done a better background check, especially if he’s a predator,” the victim’s mother said. “I think my son had the guts and the courage to come to me and tell me everything that had happened and he is my hero. My son is my hero.”