Police are investigating after a man taking a ride home after a night out in West Hollywood was robbed by his Lyft driver at gunpoint this summer.
Albert Sera says he called a ride to his home in the San Fernando Valley only to have his cellphone, wallet and other belongings stolen in an experience he describes as "horrifying."
Sera was picked up around 1:45 a.m. Aug. 31 at the corner of Santa Monica and San Vicente boulevards, according to a crime report from the Los Angeles Police Department, which is investigating the robbery.
During the route, the driver turned off Wilshire Boulevard into a dimly lit area of Comstock Avenue in Westwood, near the Los Angeles Country Club. He then stopped the vehicle, pointed a semiautomatic handgun at Sera and ordered him to, “Get out,” according to the report.
“Before I asked, he stopped the vehicle and at gunpoint — next to my face — he asked me to exit the vehicle, leaving my stuff behind,” Sera said.
Sera estimates the things he left behind are worth about $2,950, but the driver then proceeded to run up thousands of dollars in charges on Sera's credit card.
Police say the driver also ordered additional Lyft rides using Sera's phone, several of them cancelled, perhaps in an attempt to disguise his own identity.
So far, Sera says, the perpetrator has been successful in doing so. Because the driver cancelled the ride when Sera got into his car in West Hollywood, his name and picture weren’t saved in Sera’s account, making it more difficult to prove who he was, according to the victim.
Lyft has determined the man was driving a 2017 Chevrolet Suburban and uses the name Nasser, Sera said.
Sera is hoping to use the incident to compel ride-hailing companies to mandate all drivers install cameras in their cars to help protect passengers.
Ryan Okabe, Sera’s attorney, says it’s certainly not the first case he’s handled involving a ride turned violent.
“It’s a public safety issue that Uber and Lyft must address,” Okabe said. “They’re billion-dollar corporations; they have the money, they have the technology, they have the know-how to solve this problem.”