Remember that incident we told you about last month, when a driver who claimed to work for Uber took a couple for a $524 ride?
New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) said it had revoked the driver’s license a month after he picked up Nick and Amanda Cannizzaro, the honeymooners who had ordered a $135 ride from John F. Kennedy Airport back to Jersey.
TLC has fined him and revoked his TLC license. More on that in a moment.
First, a review.
It all started when newlyweds were returning from their honeymoon in Mexico in May.
Their planned ride home had car trouble so they needed to find alternate transportation back to New Jersey.
While they debated what to do, several drivers approached them and offered rides, the couple said. Many claimed to be from Uber.
The Cannizzaros said they knew those rides weren’t actually Ubers because they hadn’t ordered the service. The couple ignored those drivers and used the Uber app to order a valid ride from the ride-sharing company.
The Uber app priced the trip at $135.
After they placed the order, a 2017 black Chevrolet Suburban pulled up with an Uber sign in the window.
They said the driver, later identified in American Express paperwork as Saifuddin Mahmud, jumped out and started to load their bags into the truck.
A screen shot of the real Uber price for a ride from JFK Airport to the Cannizzaro’s New Jersey location.
The couple said they hesitated because it wasn’t the car type they’d ordered, but the driver confirmed the price, so they agreed. The driver took their phone and cancelled the original Uber order, saying he could do a “reverse charge” through the Uber app, they said.
The ride was pleasant, they said. Until they arrived at their destination.
“The driver said, ‘That’ll be $524.11,’ and flashed us an iPad with the cost on it with a credit card swiper attached to the iPad,” Amanda Cannizzaro said. “Our eyes nearly popped out of our heads.”
The couple said they debated the price with the driver, but they felt increasingly uncomfortable. Their stuff was locked in the vehicle and the driver was demanding money, they said.
“If we simply got ourselves out of the car, I was afraid he could just drive away with all of our luggage,” Cannizzaro said. “I didn’t want to call my parents or even the cops while we were still in the car with him because I wasn’t sure what he’d do.”
An image of the handwritten note written by the driver to American Express.
They decided to pay with an American Express card, thinking they could successfully dispute the charge.
But that didn’t happen. They filed several disputes, and American Express sided with the driver each time.
“The last we heard from American Express is that we are responsible for the charge because the driver provided them a written statement of what happened – which is handwritten in broken English on looseleaf paper – saying he told us the price upon us getting in the car. Not true,” Cannizzaro said.
The couple asked for help.
While the couple made several mistakes, including getting in a so-called Uber that didn’t match the car they ordered in the first place and not calling police to the scene, we were surprised that American Express wouldn’t help based on the evidence.
We asked the credit card company to take another look, and last week, we had the answer.
“They gave us a credit for the disputed amount,” Nick Cannizzaro reported.
We reached out to American Express for comment on its decision, but it didn’t respond to our inquiries.
A screen shot of the couple’s refund from American Express.
Now, back to the fate of our driver.
Uber previously told Bamboozled it couldn’t confirm or deny if Mahmud worked for Uber, but it said it had nothing do with the $524 ride.
After our first story, several NJ.com commenters suggested Cannizzaro file a complaint with the TLC to see if Mahmud, who hung up the phone when Bamboozled called him for both stories, was indeed licensed to drive in New York City.
The Cannizzaros did file the complaint.
Mahumud’s license was revoked in June 2017 as part of TLC’s Critical Driver Program, TLC said.
“TLC-licensed drivers have their TLC licenses revoked if they receive 10 or more points on their DMV license in a 15-month period,” a spokeswoman said.
Plus, there were four existing complaints against the driver, and he was found “guilty by default” because he didn’t come to the hearings, TLC said. The complaints alleged Mahmud solicited rides with unlicensed vehicles.
Mahmud faces $12,000 in fines, but he has the right to appeal or vacate the judgments, the spokeswoman said.
There could be more trouble for the driver.
If someone is caught providing for-hire service illegally in what TLC calls a “straight plate” (non-TLC-licensed) vehicle, or even if they are a licensed driver in a TLC-registered vehicle that is acting beyond their licensed scope, “they face some heavy penalties, up to the seizure and forfeiture of their vehicle if they have been shown to have perpetrated this illegal activity at least once before – two strikes and you’re out,” the spokeswoman said.
New York City is unique, the agency said, because it’s the only city in which ride-share services like Uber are regulated the same as other for-hire vehicles and taxi drivers. That means they have to get a TLC Driver License, which requires background checks and training.
Let this story be another reminder that riders need to be careful.
Uber recently started a public awareness campaign to make sure its riders know what to expect from the service.
Riders always need to request trips through the Uber app. Don’t jump in a car with someone just because they have an Uber sign or claim to be with the company.
When you request a trip through the app, you will be given the driver’s photo, name, the car make/model and its license plate number. Don’t get in unless you have a match.
Also know a legit Uber driver will never ask you to pay with a credit card. Payments always go through the app.
If you encounter a driver who uses different rules, call police and file a complaint with TLC.
Thanks to American Express for helping this couple.
Ride safely, Jersey.