Manager of American Taxi: 'Our hearts go out to the victim'

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 3, 2012 at 10:22 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 3 at 10:41 PM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS - A tragic sex crime started out as a night in the French Quarter, said police.

According to police, a 25-year-old woman left Jax Brewery bar around 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Her friends put her in a cab and gave the driver directions to the woman's home.

Instead, police said, the woman passed out in the cab and woke up to find the driver sexually assaulting her inside his Metairie apartment.

Police confirmed the complex is located in the 3400 block of Edenborn Avenue.

According to Sgt. Chris Robert, of the NOPD sex crime unit, the driver later took the woman home. The woman reported the crime Saturday night.

Three days later, police arrested Pervez Iqbal, 60, after he gave a statement at police headquarters. Iqbal is charged with second-degree kidnapping, but so far, hasn't been charged with rape. Robert said those charges could be forthcoming as the investigation continues.

Police said they are still looking into whether the woman was sexually assaulted in New Orleans as well.

"He had a phone number that was left in her phone and with the assistance of the taxi cab bureau we were able to identify a suspect," said Robert.

Iqbal, a Pakistani native, has been driving under the American Taxi logo about a year and a half, according to the company's manager, Patricia Barakat. Barakat said he is an independent contractor, denying that he is employed by American Taxi.

"Our hearts go out to the victim and her family for this terrible tragedy," said Barakat in a statement. "The driver was licensed and permitted to drive through the city of New Orleans.... We do hope justice is served."

Barakat added that the company relies on the federal background checks conducted by the city to ensure a driver doesn't have a serious criminal history. She said the company will allow any driver to use its logo as long as they have a CPNC number, a vehicle and a city license and permit.

She said no money has been exchanged between American Taxi and Iqbal.

Officials with the city's taxi cab bureau, which is in charge of regulating cabs, said they conduct extensive background checks.

Director Malachi Hull said the bureau is working to suspend Iqbal's permit. He believes controversial new reforms, including surveillance cameras in cabs, will help keep everyone safe.

"It is shocking but it's something we take seriously and we're taking steps to make sure it doesn't happen again," said Hull.

Dale Standifer, the head of the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children in Jefferson Parish, is a victim's advocate. She said the agency has received a handful of reports of sexual assaults connected to taxi cabs over the last year. Not all of them, she said, are reported to police.

Standifer said it's unfortunate sexual assaults can happen in connection with those who driver city regulated vehicles.

Iqbal's bond is set at $100,000. The NOPD is working with Jefferson Parish officials to investigate the crime.

If you have any information that could help detectives, call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.

 

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