WATCH: Woman stole Uber driver's car to get to airport faster, police say

File Picture: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

File Picture: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Published Dec 15, 2023


A 27-year-old woman was arrested in Austin in the US on Sunday for allegedly stealing her Uber driver's car in an effort to speed up her trip to the airport, then using the driver's credit card at a gift shop.

According to an arrest affidavit filed in Travis County, Texas, a woman Uber driver picked up Neusha Alexandra Afkami, of Irvine, California, from a downtown Marriott for a ride to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Along the way, the driver told police that Afkami took the driver's cellphone out of her hand and threw it out the window of the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze. The driver said that while she stopped the Chevy and got out to retrieve the phone, Afkami got in the driver's seat and stole the vehicle, leaving her stranded off a ramp about 5.6 kilometres from the airport. The driver told police she believed Afkami was upset about how long it was taking her to get to her destination.

Officers worked with the Uber driver to identify Afkami; her father's phone number was used to order the car. Police worked with airlines to learn that Afkami was booked on a Southwest flight that hadn't yet departed. An airline supervisor cancelled her boarding pass.

When officers searched Afkami at the airport, they found the Uber driver's wallet containing a Chase Bank Visa card and the driver's photo ID. A receipt and transaction notifications showed Afkami appeared to have purchased more than $120 (about R2,100) worth of items from the Paradies Lagardère store, including an oversized shot glass, a half-pound (about 226 grams) bag of "Cactus Candy," and a hooded sweatshirt with stitched lettering.

After Afkami was read her Miranda Rights, the affidavit says that she told officers that she'd felt she was being kidnapped. However, in the arrest affidavit, officers noted she "made no known attempt to contact 911 despite having a cellphone".

Afkami also told officers she'd told the driver, "I need to get to the airport, so I'm going to take your car and drop it off at Southwest Airlines".

According to Travis County court records, Afkami was charged with two state jail felonies — unauthorised use of a motor vehicle and "credit card or debit card abuse" — and was placed in the custody of the Travis County sheriff with bail listed at $10,000. She's due in court on January 9. Local CBS and Fox affiliates first reported on her arrest.

A spokesperson for Uber said Afkami was banned from the platform as soon as the incident was reported to the company.

"What this driver experienced is terrifying," the spokesperson told The Washington Post in an email.

"We care deeply about our driver community and have been in touch with the driver to offer our support," they added.

Elizabeth Ferrer, a spokesperson for the Austin airport, said she couldn't comment on the incident, but that travellers should give themselves ample time to catch a flight.

"We always recommend at least two hours for domestic flights and three hours for international flights because you just never know what the traffic conditions are going to be or what kind of challenges you might have," Ferrer said.

It has been a tough year for airport transportation frustrations. In August, there was the pilot who took an axe to a Denver International Airport parking lot gate, causing $700 in damage. In October, facing a losing battle with traffic, travellers en route to Nashville International Airport abandoned their rides on the interstate and walked to catch their flights instead.

The Washington Post