Raymond Reyes thought he was being carjacked.
The UberX driver, brought to a press conference Friday in which Uber Pennsylvania GM Jon Feldman denounced the Philadelphia Parking Authority as a “publicly-funded lobbyist” for the taxi industry, was one of two contractors for the service to share their stories of the “stings” that wound up with their vehicles impounded.
Reyes told Billy Penn he picked up a man and a woman wearing Eagles gear at Dock Street in Society Hill in November 2014. Reyes noticed a couple of PPA vans in the vicinity, which scattered as soon as he picked the passengers up. This was suspicious. And then there was the way the guy was acting. He wouldn’t shut up about the Eagles.
“He talked like, ‘I’m a good Eagles fan,’” Reyes said. “He was trying to sell me on who he was.”
The couple asked him the types of questions almost everyone asks when they ride in an Uber: How long have you been driving, do you like it, etc.? But then they started talking about something curious: The PPA, something Reyes had never heard passengers do before.
“They were basically staging a conversation bashing the PPA,” Reyes said, “and making sure I could hear every word.”
When they arrived at their destination in the Northeast, Chickie’s & Pete’s, the man and woman got out and a third person arrived on the scene and tried to take the keys from his ignition. “In that moment,” Reyes said, “I thought I was being carjacked.” Then, Reyes said, a police officer came and confiscated his phones: One from Uber, and his personal device.
Since UberX launched in October 2014, the PPA has levied more than $80,000 worth of fines after impounding drivers’ cars. Feldman, on Friday, accused the PPA of taking actions against UberX to protect the cab industry and its financial interests, based on emails revealed in a Daily News article published Thursday.
“The PPA is an unelected, unaccountable body,” Feldman said, “and now we know it’s untrustworthy as well.”
The same night in November 2014, not long after Reyes’ ordeal, UberX driver Timothy Judelshon became a sting victim of the PPA, too. He believes he picked up the same two people. This time they were waiting at Steve’s Prince of Steaks in the Northeast and requested a ride to the same Chickie’s & Pete’s, which was only about a half mile away. Once he arrived at Chickie’s & Pete’s, Judelshon recalls seeing police or PPA personnel with full-body armor suits that appeared to have bulletproof vests and made it look like “they’re out killing terrorists or something.”
“It’s amazing how much money they’ll spend,” Judelshon said, “to stop something people want.”