Driver suing Lyft claims she was kidnapped and assaulted by alleged suspect tied to robbery ring

Brooke Taylor Image
Thursday, May 30, 2024
Mother sues Lyft after she says passenger sexually assaulted her
A mother working as a Lyft driver to make ends meet said she was sexually assaulted and held at gunpoint by an alleged suspect tied to a robbery ring.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A wife and mother of four working a side job to make ends meet says she was sexually assaulted and held at gunpoint while working as a Lyft driver, and now she is suing the company for failing to protect her.

Officials said the suspect is tied to a robbery ring that has targeted more than a dozen rideshare drivers in the Houston area.

Attorneys at Blizzard Greenberg represent the victim, identified as J.W., in the lawsuit filed against Lyft and the alleged attacker. ABC13 kept the victim anonymous, as she feared for her safety.

"What was going through my head at the time was, 'I'm about to die, I'm about to die, this is it,'" J.W. said.

In June 2023, she was working as a Lyft driver as a side hustle when she accepted a ride that she had initially tried to decline.

"It had a message, and it said if I didn't take the ride, I could be penalized," she said. "I felt pressured, and I took the ride."

The ride from Missouri City to Martin Luther King Blvd near the South Loop was just $3.94.

According to the lawsuit, 19-year-old Kenneth Kelley was the passenger she picked up. The lawsuit states he was in high school and living with his mom at the time.

As they approached the drop-off location, the lawsuit states Kelley pulled out a gun, held it to her head, and demanded that she continue driving.

According to the lawsuit, Kelley began describing the sexual things he planned to do to her, including holding a gun to the back of her head while assaulting her.

"He groped me sexually and said a lot of nasty things," J.W. said. "I immediately prayed and begged for my life."

According to the lawsuit, Kelley and five other young men are linked to a total of 19 different robberies of Uber and Lyft drivers, which all follow a similar pattern - drivers held at gunpoint and forced to withdraw money after being driven around. The lawsuit states Kelly forced another victim to perform oral sex at gunpoint.

A federal grand jury in Houston recently indicted Kelley and the five others on a combined 24 counts, including interference with commerce by robbery and using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence.

J.W. believes Lyft did not have the proper measures in place to protect her as a driver.

According to the lawsuit, Kelley's first victim was kidnapped in April 2023, and the driver reported the crimes to the company, but they failed to timely inform the police, allowing Kelley to keep using the Lyft app.

The lawsuit also states Kelley used a fake name rather than his true identity, and Lyft did not provide her with any identity photo of the rider. It's a decision that the mom says has shattered her life completely.

"I almost lost life over $3.95 to someone they put in my car with a false name, a false account," she said.

Kelley has also been indicted on 10 state criminal charges, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated kidnapping, and sexual assault. He was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals.

ABC13 has reached out to Lyft for a comment on the lawsuit and allegations.

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