Florida taxi driver caught sexually assaulting blind woman in cab, police say

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PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida cab driver accused of sexually assaulting a passenger in the back seat of his cab is facing charges, authorities say.

Joe Fernandez, 50, is facing two counts of sexual battery, kidnapping and one charge of abuse of an elderly or disabled person.

According to the arrest reports, Fernandez, who was driving a United Cab, picked up the woman, who is blind, at an undisclosed location. At some point, the woman passed out in the back seat.

When Fernandez arrived at a hotel in Treasure Island, Florida, he assaulted and raped the woman, the reports state.

Treasure Island Police Chief John Barkley says a friend of the woman she was supposed to meet at that location caught Fernandez in the act.

“The friend realized it had been some time since the person should have been there,” said Barkley. “Went down to the hotel parking lot, looked into the back of the taxi cab and witnessed the sexual assault taking place.”

Barkley says Fernandez climbed back into the driver’s seat and took off, with the woman still in the back seat. Police later found Fernandez driving the cab in South Pasadena, Florida, and stopped him.

Abby Rivera, who rented a room to Fernandez in her home in Hillsborough County, Florida, said the allegations are difficult to believe.

“He quiet, he go to work. He quiet, he comes back,” said Rivera. “Never problems with him.”

Veteran cab driver Michael Bonsante said he is shocked.

“I think it’s terrible, tragic,” said Bonsante. “Every taxi cab driver goes through an FBI background check. We just don’t hire anybody. “

Fernandez is being held in the Pinellas County Jail on a $255,000 bond.

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