Sting reveals limo drivers posing as Uber drivers to make quick cash

Posted at 7:06 PM, Jul 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-26 09:58:03-04

DENVER, Colo. -- Many of us rely on ride sharing services to get around town, but a series of stings shows you might not really know who is behind the wheel.

Documents obtained by Denver7 show the Public Utilities Commission, the state agency that oversees fares, conducted a series of stings starting in March of 2015. 

The investigators posed as passengers in LoDo after receiving reports the Transportation Network Company drivers were soliciting and accepting street hails which is illegal.

Documents show limo drivers posed as Uber drivers and offered to give the undercover investigators rides for flat rates starting at $15. In 7 of the 10 cases, the investigators noted the drivers were logged into the Uber app, but were not using it. 

In one case, the driver's operating permit had been revoked since 2009. The driver had reapplied for a permit under a different name in 2010, but that license was revoked on July 18, 2013. 

Denver 7's Molly Hendrickson found, despite the investigation, not much has changed. It didn't take long for her to hail a black car in front of Union Station Monday morning.

"Are you an Uber driver?" Hendrickson asked.

The driver, who worked for "Shady Limo," offered to take Hendrickson 2.5 miles for $15.

"I know it's illegal, but I work here, pick up people from here, from the hotel, take them to the airport," the driver told her.

Another driver told Hendrickson picking up illegal fares is the only way he can compete.

"We [had] business before X and Lyft, now we don't have business, all the people go to the app, that's why we hustle like this," the driver said.

The lack of oversight comes with devastating consequences. Last year, an Uber driver was accused of sexually assaulting a woman he picked up from LoDo. Another Uber driver was accused of burglarizing a Denver passenger's home.

Terry Bote, external affairs manager for the Public Utilities Commission, said they continue to crack down on drivers picking up illegal fares, but they can't be everywhere at once. He recommended riders make sure they use the Uber app or hail a taxi, pointing out those are the only two legal ways to catch a ride.