AN UBER driver tricked a blind opera singer into handing over her phone before giving himself a £20 tip and a five star rating, a court heard.
Victoria Oruwari, 39, was duped into passing her phone to 32-year-old driver Cornel Mihai at the end of a £51 trip from London Bridge to East Croydon.
Mihai claimed he needed to use her phone to complete the journey, but then awarded himself a £20 tip and a top rating, Croydon magistrates’ court heard.
The Romanian-born dad-of-two, from Barking, protested his innocence but was convicted of fraud by false representation. He will be sentenced on February 4.
As Mihai was convicted of fraud, Ms Oruwari said: “It has reiterated the fact I am vulnerable and more susceptible to crime and being taken advantage of.”
The Nigeria-born singer was a finalist on BBC talent show All Together Now, where she brought Geri Halliwell to tears.
She has toured the world as a solo soprano and performed at the Royal Opera House.
Ms Oruwari, who lost her sight as a child, said: “To lead a full life I have to trust people. That has been shaken, but I am determined to continue trusting in people.”
Uber has removed Mihai from its database of approved drivers.
An Uber spokeswoman said: “This incident is unacceptable and we have refunded the customer. There is no place for this kind of behaviour on the Uber app.”
UBER DRIVER CON
The court was told how Mihai had picked Ms Oruwari up from London Bridge station at 10pm on June 29 last year when she was unable to catch a train home.
The singer struck up a conversation with the Uber driver about her sight loss during the drive home.
She told the court: “I felt irritated because it was none of his business, but as I was in his car I thought it best to be polite.
“He said I was getting on with life well and was happy and I said, ‘Yes, there’s nothing to be sad about’.
“He told me he could not end the trip on his app and asked if I could give him my phone to end it. I thought it was a little odd, but there was nothing in his behaviour to make me think I wasn’t safe.
“I did not think anything fishy was going on, but I was handing him a lot of trust.”
Ms Oruwari handed her phone over to Mihai at the end of the journey.
It was only later she found what he’d done.
She told the court: “I was shocked that I had been charged twice the fare, although I knew there would be a price surge, but also that the driver had been rated five-star and tipped £20.
“The only time I did not have the phone was when I gave it to him and had to switch off the screenreader so couldn’t hear what was happening.”
Mihai denied using Ms Oruwari’s phone.
He said: “I finished this journey on my phone. I want to work honestly.”
Edward Seller, defending, said: “We are talking about twenty pounds and the loss of his livelihood. He has a lot more to lose than gain.”
Magistrate Pat Heslop said “We accept the evidence of the complainant, who gave a credible account of the events.
“Nothing has been suggested as to how this happened otherwise and we find it difficult to accept Mr Mihai wouldn’t have known Ms Oruwari had issues with her sight.”