A driver in Chicago for the ride-hailing service Uber has been charged with sexual assault after he picked up a 22-year-old woman in November and assaulted her, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The driver, Maxime Fohounhedo, held an account in his wife's name, Sheena Fohounhedo, even though his photo and phone number were on the account, Uber said. The practice is known as account sharing, and is prohibited on the Uber platform. Shortly after the allegations were made, Uber suspended the driver from service.
"Mr. and Mrs. Fohounhedo committed fraud in this deplorable act and we are exploring all legal options," an Uber spokesperson said. "All details regarding this fraud and Mr. Fohounhedo’s illegal activities have been shared with the Chicago Police Department and Uber will continue cooperating with the authorities.
"In addition to a zero tolerance policy for account sharing, Uber conducts real-time audits of drivers on the platform, regularly re-checks driver photos and monitors rider feedback on an ongoing basis."
The charges against the driver come in the wake of a New Delhi Uber driver being accused of raping a woman last month, and a Boston Uber driver being accused of kidnapping and raping a woman in early December.
The ride-hailing industry has recently been under scrutiny for the lack of transparency over its screening process for drivers. The Los Angeles and San Francisco district attorneys filed lawsuits against Uber this month for allegedly misleading customers over the thoroughness of its driver background checks. Despite claiming to use an “industry-leading” process, Uber does not fingerprint its drivers. San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon said without fingerprinting its drivers, the company’s background checks are “completely worthless.”
In a blog post published a few weeks later, Uber said it was rolling out new safety programs in 2015 that would include using biometrics and “scientific analysis” to screen its drivers.
Still, the quality and kinds of background checks performed remain a point of contention because there's no guarantee that someone with a clean background won't commit a crime while on the job. The taxicab industry, for example, is known for having stringent background check processes (including fingerprinting of drivers), but data collected by the City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection found that 402 complaints of physical violence had been filed against taxi drivers in Chicago since 2011.