California man arrested with 10 pounds of marijuana in Estero

A California man was arrested in Estero after his Uber driver demanded he leave the car on suspicion of possessing marijuana. On Saturday, Florida …
Published: February 17, 2019 9:41 PM EST

A California man was arrested in Estero after his Uber driver demanded he leave the car on suspicion of possessing marijuana.

On Saturday, Florida Highway Patrol arrested Branden Anthony Charles, 38, after he was found in possession of 10 pounds of marijuana in the parking lot of the Embassy Suites hotel on Corkscrew Road in Estero.

Photo courtesy of Florida Highway Patrol.

According to the FHP release, Charles faces felony charges for Possession of Marijuana Over 20 Grams and Intent to Sell.

According to the FHP release, Charles’ Uber driver, who chose to remain anonymous due to fear for personal safety, became suspicious when he said Charles and his suitcase smelled of marijuana.

The Uber driver told WINK News he refused to continue transporting Charles to his destination and demanded Charles leave the vehicle in the parking lot of the Embassy Suites hotel.

The driver also told WINK News the Uber app helped assist in FHP tracking down his car in order to arrest Charles. Through the app, the driver alerted his wife using the Share My Trip feature and was able to share location and communicate he was in distress and needed assistance from law enforcement. The driver said he will no longer work for Uber because of continued fear for his safety.

“I want them to be safe,” the driver told WINK News on record in the video above. “I want them to know about the [Share my Trip] feature because there are a lot of women, single women, that are driving Uber just to get by. They should know that this works, and they should use it.”

According to the arrest report, Charles’ last known home address is in Los Angeles, California.

According to the FHP release, Charles was also found in possession of $15,000 in cash.

Charles was put behind bars at Lee County Jail and paid bond posted at $5,000.

Charles is scheduled to appear in court in March.

Trust WINK News to update you as more information becomes available.

Reporter: Morgan Rynor
Writer: Jack Lowenstein

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Uber is suing New York City… again

The long-running battle between the gig industry and the Big Apple has taken yet another turn. Despite the best efforts of Uber and Lyft to find some …

The long-running battle between the gig industry and the Big Apple has taken yet another turn. Despite the best efforts of Uber and Lyft to find some sort of compromise and accommodation with the municipal government of New York City, new laws were passed that put a cap on new licenses for ride-hailing vehicles and mandated a minimum hourly wage for drivers. This was done knowing full well that it undercuts the entire concept of ride-sharing services. And now Uber is joining Lyft in taking the city to court over these restrictions. (CNBC)

Uber sued New York City on Friday over the City Council’s vote last August to impose a year-long cap on new licenses for ride-hailing vehicles. Uber’s lawsuit seeks to reverse the cap and allow new licenses again.

New York’s cap was designed to limit the number of vehicles on the road, reducing congestion and helping taxi drivers, who say their livelihoods were hurt by the influx of ride-haling drivers in the city. It also allowed the state of New York to set a minimum hourly rate for drivers, which Uber’s rival Lyft sued to reverse earlier this year.

“Rather than rely on alternatives supported by transportation experts and economists, the City chose to significantly restrict service, growth and competition by the for-hire vehicle industry, which will have a disproportionate impact on residents outside of Manhattan who have long been underserved by yellow taxis and mass transit,” Uber’s lawsuit says.

The New York Taxi Workers Alliances union is behind most of these laws (along with their lobbyists and the taxi company owners. They’re lining up in support of the new laws based on a complaint that Uber and Lyft are harming their business prospects. Their representative cited eight taxi workers who committed suicide in the recent past “because of the crisis Uber created.” And the city government is repeating their claims.

While it’s a tragedy when anyone become depressed enough to turn to suicide, I have a newsflash for the Mayor, the City Council, and these union supporters. No company or particular business model has an inherent right to be free from competition or to have government endorsed insurance against the results of not keeping up with innovation. Sorry if that sounds cold-hearted, but the reality is that ride-sharing outfits are providing massively better service than the cab companies do, generally at comparable or even discounted rates. Most people I know who try Uber once swear off cabs for good.

Just because one industry or a specific set of companies can’t keep up doesn’t mean that their competition should be squashed by the government, no matter how much money those special interests donate to the Democrats who run New York City. The city is passing laws specifically intended to restrict competition and favor their friends and they need to be called out on this in court. The complaints about “traffic congestion” are a red herring and you shouldn’t need a special license to use your own car to offer rides in the first place. Or, if you want to insist they have a chauffer’s license, you shouldn’t be limiting the number of available licenses just to thwart competition and distort the market.

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Uber narrows losses, revenue growth slows on road to IPO

SAN FRANCISCO • Uber last Friday released earnings figures that showed its loss narrowed in the final quarter of last year while revenue growth …

SAN FRANCISCO • Uber last Friday released earnings figures that showed its loss narrowed in the final quarter of last year while revenue growth slowed as the ride-sharing giant prepares for a stock market debut.

The loss for the final three months of last year amounted to US$865 million (S$1.2 billion), compared with US$1.1 billion in the same period a year earlier.

The San Francisco-based firm reported revenue of US$3 billion, a 25 per cent increase from a year earlier. That’s high by many standards, but significantly lower than Uber’s third quarter year-over-year growth of 38 percent – a growth rate that was itself only about half the rate of six months prior.

Uber remains a private company, but it routinely discloses some earnings information. Chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who is steering the high-value start-up to a stock market debut this year, has promised greater transparency as he seeks to restore confidence in the global ride-sharing leader hit by a wave of misconduct scandals.

Revenue for the full year rose 43 per cent to US$11.3 billion, with Uber’s annual loss shrinking 15 per cent to US$1.8 billion, according to the start-up.

Uber operates its ride-share business in dozens of countries and has expanded to new areas including food delivery, electric scooters and bikes. It is seen as the largest of the venture-backed start-ups with a presumed valuation of some US$70 billion. “Last year was our strongest yet, and the fourth quarter set another record for engagement on our platform,” Uber chief financial officer Nelson Chai said in a released statement.

Uber is eyeing a valuation above US$100 billion (S$136 billion) for its much-anticipated share offering due this year, which would be the biggest ever in the tech sector.

“Our ride-sharing business maintained category leadership in all regions we serve, Uber Freight gained exciting traction in the US, Jump e-bikes and e-scooters are on the road in over a dozen cities.”

Based on gross bookings, Uber Eats has apparently become the largest online food delivery business outside China, said Mr Chai.

Uber is eyeing a valuation above US$100 billion for its much-anticipated share offering due this year, which would be the biggest-ever in the tech sector.

Sources said the global ride-sharing giant is considering speeding up its plans for an initial public offering to the first half of 2019, rather than the second half of the year.


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Uber posts $50bln in annual booking ahead of IPO, profits remain cynical

As Uber had been seeking the support of the investors ahead of its initial public offering, apparently one of the biggest stock listings, the ride-hailing …

As Uber had been seeking the support of the investors ahead of its initial public offering, apparently one of the biggest stock listings, the ride-hailing service had recently issued a public statement, saying that, they had about $50 billion in total annual booking for their ride-hailing and food delivery businesses last year.

However, the Uber’s earnings figure released on Friday, the 15th of February, raised questions about its growth prospects, since the data had shown revenue growth of only 2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018 and Uber kept subsidizing their hailing rides to backlash in the competitive markets.

According to data released on Friday, February 15th, the full year revenue of Uber was $11.3 billion, 43 percent up from a year earlier. However, the ride-hailing and grocery delivery service had displayed signs of improvement in tax, depreciation and other expenses, as its expenses were curbed to $1.8 billion, an improvement over $2.2 billion losses posted a year earlier.

On last December, Uber had filed confidentiality for an initial public offering, which would come as early as in the second quarter of 2019, as the ride-hailing service had been battling shoulder-to-shoulder with its rival Lyft in order to be the first ride-hailing appeared at an IPO.

In a post-earnings statement, the Chief Financial officer of Uber, Nelson Chai said, “Last year was our strongest yet, and Q4 set another record. ”

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Cabbies fight to survive

LIHUE — Uber and Lyft drivers were allowed to start making pickups at select airports in Hawaii Feb. 1, including Lihue Airport, and taxi drivers on …

LIHUE — Uber and Lyft drivers were allowed to start making pickups at select airports in Hawaii Feb. 1, including Lihue Airport, and taxi drivers on Kauai are feeling the squeeze.

The number of customers who request a taxi after getting off a plane in Lihue has dropped dramatically since the first of the month, according to dispatchers and taxi drivers who estimate they are getting about half the number of calls compared to two weeks ago.

Now, many of those drivers, some of whom have have depended for decades on the fares they get from Lihue Airport, find themselves on the verge of losing their livelihood.

One cab driver, Leonora Carlos, said that if things keep up like this, instead of waiting her turn for a fare, “next time, you know, we lining up at EBT!”

“It’s not profitable,” she said. “We’re losing money.”

Joe Llego, a driver on the island for the last decade, said he noticed the drop off in business immediately after the ride-share companies started operating at the airport. Llego said he recently waited for six hours, only to pick up a customer going into Lihue — a fare worth around $10.

“How you gonna pay gas?” he asked.

Llego and Carlos are not the only taxi drivers operating at a deficit this month. Several drivers told stories about waiting five to seven hours in the taxi parking lot at the airport for customers to request their services.

Andy, a driver who asked that his last name be withheld, said he gave up and went home without
collecting a single fare one day last week, after waiting six hours for the taxi dispatch phone to ring.

Caroline Castillo started driving a taxi on Kauai Feb. 1, the first day Uber and Lyft drivers were allowed to make airport pickups.

“And then I wait here seven hours. For me it’s really bad because I wait seven hours, and then I get $15. That’s my one day,” she said. “How I can survive? How I can feed myself?”

Carlos, chimed in, “Not you, what about your two kids?”

When asked if there was any way taxi drivers could avoid going out of business, Carlos said, “Put us at the curb. That’s the solution.”

At Lihue Airport, taxi drivers are required to park in a separate lot away from the terminal and can only pick up customers who call the airport’s dispatch service from a phone near the baggage claim area.

Her sentiment was echoed by a number of other drivers standing around the taxi dispatch kiosk, who feel that airport administrators are enforcing a set of antiquated rules that are inefficient, essentially negating the relative simplicity and accessibility that appeals to those who prefer to take a taxi instead of using Uber or Lyft.

“I want an answer,” said cab driver Steven Carvalho. “Why don’t we have a presence at the terminal?”

Craig Davis, manager of the Lihue Airport for the state Department of Transportation Airports Division, could not be reached for comment. Officials with HDOT said Davis was out of his office and not available to take a phone call.

HDOT Director of Communications Tim Sakahara said last week he doesn’t understand why taxi drivers feel they are at a competitive disadvantage.

“In a lot of ways, the setup favors the taxi drivers,” Sakahara said. “They have a phone on site and a staging area at the airport, which the TNCs (transportation network companies) don’t have.”

According to Sakahara, Uber and Lyft drivers are required to comply with the same regulations and laws that apply to cab companies, but at least one taxi company owner doesn’t believe that is the case.

Greg Disilvestri, owner of 635-Taxi, wrote an email to airport administrators and the Kauai County Council last week, insisting that ride-share companies are given preferential treatment when it comes to making sure their drivers have the proper insurance and background checks required to make airport pickups.

“The airport does not have the individual TNC vehicles’ insurance or driver information. Instead the airport trusts the TNC to make sure that its drivers have supplied the TNC and are in compliance,” Disilvestri wrote.

“Can I/my company, a pre-arranged transportation provider who has provided Lihue Airport with 18 years of service, also be afforded this trust?” Disilvestri asked in his email. “No, I must supply the DOT with a physical certificate of insurance at the airport along with a list of other required documents, medical checks for drivers, etc.”

Disilvestri’s email also said that, contrary to common public perception, ride-share companies are not necessarily cheaper than taxis.

“Taxis are always cheaper than the UberXL (a van) and also cheaper then UberX on many occasions,” he wrote, explaining that because all taxis that operate out of Lihue Airport are vans or SUVs, they offer the equivalent service of UberXL, a more expensive option for customers with a large group or a lot of luggage.

One taxi driver is even trying to organize his fellow cab drivers, hoping to get a substantial number of them to offer their services via TagMyTaxi, a mobile application similar to the platforms used by ride-share companies.

Tusuenee Briggs said Friday that he has the signatures of 10 taxi drivers on Kauai who have agreed to use the app, and he hopes to start using TagMyTaxi on a trial basis under a company he plans to call Alpha Cabs.

“We’re gonna be pretty much the same thing as Uber,” Briggs said.

A spokesperson for Lyft said in an email that the company has received positive feedback from drivers and passengers about the new expanded service at Lihue Airport, and said Lyft executives “look forward to working with local leadership on how we may continue to provide reliable and convenient transportation options for locals and visitors alike.”

Uber representatives did not respond to a request for comment.


Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or