SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Halloween night was terrifying for a Sarasota woman. Deputies say an Uber driver and a masked man kidnapped her — then forced her to withdraw cash from several ATMs.
On Tuesday night, 74-year-old Hayat Brancheau left the Hard Rock Casino and hailed an Uber. The driver, 21-year-old Christian Noda, told her he needed to check the air in his tires, so he went to a nearby gas station.
Then, a masked man with a high-powered pellet gun forced his way into the car, and for an hour they drove around, forcing her to withdraw money at local ATMs.
“Very brave woman, she’s basically terrorized, kidnapped,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Larry McKinnon.
Brancheau did not want to speak on camera, but she did speak briefly on the phone with News Channel 8.
“I wasn’t targeted, it was just random…I was scared out of my mind. I hope no one has to go through what I went through. No human being deserves that,” said Brancheau.
The pair then dropped her off in Dover, stole $1,000 worth of poker chips from her and headed toward Orlando, using her debit card along the way. Deputies tracked Noda down and arrested him. He has been charged with armed kidnapping and armed robbery.
“Although he confessed and admitted to this plan, he refused to give us the information on the second individual,” said McKinnon. “It’s [unfortunate] when you have these rogue employees committing these type of crimes they’re very hard to stop.”
Noda has been charged with armed kidnapping and armed robbery.
Uber spokeswoman Jodi Page said:
What’s been reported is deplorable and completely unacceptable. This driver no longer has access to the app. We’ve been working with police and will continue to provide any information that is helpful to their investigation.”
Brancheau said she’s not doing well and cannot eat or sleep.
“I’m not in a good frame of mind right now, just very scared,” she said.
Brancheau has advice for others: “I would ensure [an Uber driver] is not going to stop before getting in the car. They don’t let you know that before you get in.”
If you have any information on the second suspect, call the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.