Drug dealers may be turning rideshare drivers into unwitting drug mules.
Two days after a report found that Uber drivers were nervous about carrying drugs in their cars, a New Hampshire court has charged a man accused of using the rideshare company to help him deliver fentanyl, according to local news site WMUR-TV. Johan Rodriguez was apprehended on Monday and charged with possession with intent to distribute — allegedly, having tried to unload 10 kilograms of the synthetic opioid via Uber rides.
Ironically, NBC News published an article on Saturday that alluded to the potential problem of using Ubers to transport drugs. That report was not based on a significant sample of drivers. NBC News admits that they only talked to six drivers —five of whom refused to let the journalist use their names. Granted, you could probably find six Uber drivers who think anything, really, given the fact that there are 3.9 million of them working across 10,000 cities, according to Ridester.
A representative from the rideshare company told NBC News that it has received six requests for drug-related information from law enforcement agencies regarding Uber Connect. The service was invented in the heady early days of the pandemic in April 2020, and allows users to pay as much as one would for an Uber ride with humans, though Uber Connect only allows people to send objects.
That was not the case of Rodriguez, who reportedly took an Uber from Lawrence, Massachusetts to Dover, New Hampshire, while already under police surveillance. When he removed a toolbox and tool bag from the Uber’s trunk, police pounced and allegedly found the cache of fentanyl.
Another example: Kyle Brock, an Uber driver based in Mesa, Arizona, who picked up a grocery bag from one person who ordered his services which appeared to contain “the most random and worthless stuff in it,” he told NBC News. Uber does not encourage drivers to open packages sent in their care — but Brock had no problem peering into the open bag. There was candy, a pen, and “a box about the size of two decks of cards covered in an excessive amount of tape,” according to the article.
The box definitely contained drugs, thought Brock. “I dropped off the package with quite a bit of dread,” he said.
In all fairness, Uber does require users to sign an agreement stating they will not transport banned substances through the company's drivers.
None of the drivers interviewed by NBC News reported to the police and confirmed that they had illegal drugs in their car, though some did crack open packages to find what they thought was cannabis or other prescription medications. However, drivers are incentivized against refusing suspicious fares. Cancelling a ride incurs the driver a fee — and could piss off the customer, to boot.
“Do we choose morality, or do we choose our safety?” asked one Miami-based driver. “You have to choose your safety. They have everything but your last name.”
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