KISSIMMEE, Fla. - Osceola County deputies in Florida have arrested an Uber driver accused of raping a 14-year-old girl last Monday.
Deputies said the girl was picked up by David Pena-Melo, 27, after she used the Uber application to request a ride to take her from her boyfriend's house to her aunt's house on Monday around 3 a.m. Both addresses are in Kissimmee.
The victim sat in the back seat and Pena-Melo began telling her she was pretty and asking her personal questions about where she goes to school, her age and if she had a boyfriend, according to the arrest report.
The girl avoided the questions and instead texted her boyfriend. The report says that while at an intersection, Pena-Melo told the girl to move to the front seat, which she did. Deputies said Pena-Melo sexually battered the girl. She told him to stop several times, but he was "forceful and persistent," according to the affidavit.
Pena-Melo then drove the girl past her requested destination and parked near a wooded area, where deputies said he forced her to perform a sexual act. He then drove her to her requested address.
Deputies said they received the report of the sexual battery Wednesday. The victim provided deputies with a description matching that of Pena-Melo and his Toyota Camry, as well as the license plate number.
Authorities used that license plate number to track the car to an apartment on Bonita Circle in Kissimmee.
The suspect's wife originally told deputies Pena-Melo was in Boston caring for his sick mother, but when deputies told her that they were investigating a crime that occurred in her car, she became "extremely cooperative" and gave them consent to search the vehicle, the report said.
Pena-Melo's wife knew her husband was at an apartment in Kissimmee, so she led deputies to that location then called Pena-Melo so he would come outside.
Pena-Melo immediately started making spontaneous admissions when he saw the deputies, the report said.
"This is about the girl I picked up from her boyfriend's house the other day. I knew it. I knew it. She told me she was 18," Pena-Melo said, according to deputies.
Deputies stopped him from speaking any further until they could get him to the Sheriff's Office for an interview.
Pena-Melo admitted to the sexual activity during the interview, again claiming that he thought the victim was at least 18 years old, deputies said.
Osceola County Sheriff's Office Capt. Jacob Ruiz said the victim never told Pena-Melo that she was an adult.
"Even if it was determined that it was consensual -- at this time, those are conflicting stories -- but you're right, because of her age a 14-year-old can not give consent to any sex act in the state of Florida," Ruiz said.
Uber released a statement Friday afternoon.
“We are appalled by what’s been reported, and our thoughts are with the family. This driver has been banned from Uber,” the statement read.
Ruiz said that although ride-sharing apps are popular, the public should still use caution. He said the Sheriff's Office recommends traveling with a friend and anyone who feels their safety could be at risk should call 911.
"It is very disturbing, and the public needs to know that as convenient as the new apps and these new services are, that you still need to be very careful. You still don't know who you're approaching, who you're in contact with, especially at odd times of the night or in the morning," Ruiz said.
He also said parents should know where their children are at all times.
"Even though they're teenagers, they're still very vulnerable and people may take advantage of them. When they're faced with a bad situation, they might not know how to react," Ruiz said.
Pena-Melo was booked into the Osceola County Jail on Thursday on a sexual battery charge. He's being held without bond.
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