AUSTIN — A man accused of posing as a rideshare driver to kidnap intoxicated women is now facing additional charges after police have tied him to a similar case from 2017.
Daniel Kifle, 46, is being held in the Travis County Jail on two charges of kidnapping, one charge of aggravated kidnapping, two charges of attempted sexual assault and one charge of robbery. He has a combined bond of $800,000.
According to an arrest affidavit obtained by KVUE, police responded to Grove Boulevard on Oct. 28, 2017, at 2:05 a.m. in response to a kidnapping abduction call. A man reported he and his friends were drinking on Sixth Street at The Ranch when he met the victim. He stated the woman appeared intoxicated and stated she had hailed a rideshare. When the suspect's black SUV arrived, he said the man exited the vehicle and stated he would give them a ride, which made the man skeptical the suspect was actually operating under a rideshare service.
The man reported he attempted to wave off the suspect, but he was persistent that he was in fact their driver. At this point, he said the woman was so intoxicated that she could barely stand, so he and the suspect placed the victim in the front passenger seat and he sat in the back seat. The man stated he told the driver to take them to Grove Boulevard, and after making a stop to allow the victim to vomit, they arrived at the apartment. After taking the victim's phone to make sure it would not be lost, the man stated he exited the vehicle to help the woman, who was passed out, out of the vehicle. The suspect reportedly took off, causing the man to fall to the ground. He then called 911.
At 6 a.m, police said they were looking for the victim's vehicle on Gibson Street when they located it and found the victim seated in the driver's seat with fresh scrapes to her knees and scratches on her chin. She reported she had gone out with friends at The Ranch, met the witness and arrived at her current location by an Uber. She said she remembered stopping to vomit and being helped by two men. She reported that the Uber driver did not appear to know where he was going, so she flagged down another male rider stating she needed help. The rider requested they stop at a 7-Eleven because she needed help. There, the victim stated she noticed she no longer had her heels and was not wearing her underwear. She stated a 7-Eleven employee gave her some coffee and a ride back to her vehicle.
According to the victim, she had no record that she had hailed an Uber that night. Police stated she realized that her gold bracelet, a necklace, $60 in cash and credit cards were missing. She also noticed bruising on her right hip and knees, stating she may have fallen from being too intoxicated. She stated she did not remember what happened to any of the men who assisted her that night.
On July 20, 2018, she again met with police who showed her a lineup of a suspect involved in similar cases. She positively selected the suspect police identified as Kifle.
On June 3, 2018, Austin police responded to a residence in South Austin after receiving a call about a kidnapping. When police arrived, they met with the witness who said she and the victim were downtown at a bar on West Sixth Street when they got into a black SUV they believed to be their rideshare.
The witness told police the suspect drove them to the victim's house and that the victim was passed out next to her, the affidavit said. The witness reportedly told police she then exited the vehicle to walk around and help the victim out of the car when the suspect immediately drove off with the victim. The witness then called police and gave them a description of the suspect: a black man in his late 30s to 40s with a thin build, and a bald or thin haircut.
In a similar instance on Sunday, June 9, Austin police were called out to a reported kidnapping at a home in North Austin. A witness told police that she and the victim were outside of a bar on West Sixth Street in Downtown Austin when they walked over to a black SUV, which they believed was their rideshare. The witness said the suspect was driving her and the victim to the victim's home when she noticed that the victim had fallen asleep in the back seat of the vehicle.
When the suspect stopped the vehicle outside of the victim's home, the witness said she exited the SUV and attempted to grab the victim from the back seat. The witness said the suspect sped off fast with the victim still inside the vehicle, knocking the witness to the ground from the force.
The victim told police that she "blacked out" in the vehicle and remembered waking up in the front passenger seat in a parking lot unfamiliar to her. The victim told police that the suspect attempted to put his hand down her pants, but she pushed him away and told him to take her home. The victim said when the suspect stopped at a stop sign, she jumped out of the car and ran away with her cell phone. The victim described the suspect as a dark skinned man who is about 30 to 40 years old. She said she remembered seeing the sign for Rudy's on Lamar Boulevard.
On June 11, the Lakeway Police Department notified Austin police that they had a similar case. Lakeway police identified the suspect in their case as Kifle. Austin police said Kifle matched the description the witness gave them. According to police, Kifle also had a vehicle matching the description: a black 2015 Chevrolet Suburban.
According to the arrest affidavit, investigators requested GPS coordinates from Lyft and Uber to pinpoint the whereabouts of Kifle during the alleged kidnappings and sexual assaults. Lyft responded with the coordinates and time stamps that placed Kifle near the areas of the kidnapping calls, according to police.
Austin police said the suspect was not operating using rideshare apps during the alleged assaults, though he did have an account. Police could not confirm which app the driver had an account with. Lyft claims he was not using its platform in the 2018 cases, though it did provide GPS data.
Lyft released the following statement on July 3:
"The situations being described are truly frightening. Our thoughts are with the victims of these senseless acts. These rides did not happen on the Lyft platform, but we have been assisting law enforcement with their investigation and will continue to do so moving forward."
Uber released the following statement on Aug. 21:
"What police describe is deeply troubling. As soon as we learned of the accusations, we removed this driver's access to the app and worked with police."
Uber stated the man was "off duty" and not using the Uber platform during the June and October incidents. Uber also suggested several tips to follow when checking your ride in a blogpost, which can be found here.
At a press conference on July 3, police urged everyone using rideshare apps to remain vigilant in ensuring your driver and vehicle match the descriptions given to you through your services.