WASHINGTON - The FBI is warning the public about criminals who may resort to using rideshare vehicles to abduct children, due to the less likelihood of being detected.
Authorities said while it is a rare occurrence, they are issuing an alert due to its high impact and after receiving multiple reports. They noted that during the COVID-19 pandemic, criminals believed rideshare services gave them more privacy along with mask and social distancing requirements.
Investigators said criminals sometimes used various modes of transportation to either transport or abduct their victims during the pandemic. However, they were not apprehended while using rideshare vehicles. Instead, they were arrested while using other modes of transportation.
The FBI also identified several examples of the crime.
- In April 2022, a 16-year-old boy requested a rideshare trip from Portland, Oregon, to Rockport, Texas. During his ride, the rideshare driver offered him a drink and the boy later woke up inside of a home in Sinton, Texas, approximately 20 miles in the opposite direction of Rockport. The boy walked to a nearby home and called for help. Law enforcement later arrested the rideshare driver.
- In February 2021, an adult male in Colorado met a minor victim on social media and groomed her to send child sexual exploitation material (CSAM). The male flew to California and persuaded the minor to sneak out of her residence at 2:00 a.m. to enter a rideshare vehicle. The rideshare vehicle transported them to the airport, where they boarded a plane to Washington, DC. During their travel, the adult male forced the victim to pretend to be mute and wear a wig in order to avoid detection. The victim was recovered and police apprehended her abductor at the airport during their layover. The adult male was charged with child abduction, soliciting CSAM from a minor, and meeting the minor for sex.
- In February 2022, in Mexico City, a father traveled in a rideshare vehicle with his 7-year-old son and asked the driver to stop at a flower stand. When the father exited the vehicle to make a purchase, the rideshare driver drove off with the boy. The boy found a way to call his mother and provided his location. The parents recovered the boy safely, chased, and eventually stopped the rideshare driver from escaping, where he was arrested.
The FBI urges people who observe suspicious behavior involving a child abduction to report it to law enforcement immediately. A complaint can also be made online.
This story was reported from Los Angeles.