Uber driver took blind TV singer’s phone and gave himself a £20 tip

Tony Palmer
Victoria Oruwari

A celebrated blind singer was conned by an Uber driver who gave himself a five-star rating and a £20 tip, a court heard.

Victoria Oruwari, 39, was tricked into handing over her phone to driver Cornel Mihai at the end of a £51 journey to her home in south London.

Mihai, 32, claimed he needed to use her handset to end the journey, but then awarded himself a generous tip and a top rating, Croydon magistrates’ court heard.

As Mihai was convicted of fraud, Ms Oruwari said: “It has reiterated the fact I am vulnerable and more susceptible to crime and being taken advantage of.”

The singer was a finalist on BBC talent show All Together Now, where she brought Geri Halliwell to tears.

She has toured the world as a solo soprano and performed at the Royal Opera House. Ms Oruwari, who lost her sight as a child, said: “To lead a full life I have to trust people. That has been shaken, but I am determined to continue trusting in people.”

Uber driver Cornel Mihai (Tony Palmer)

Uber has removed Mihai from its database of approved drivers.

An Uber spokeswoman said: “This incident is unacceptable and we have refunded the customer. There is no place for this kind of behaviour on the Uber app.”

Mihai, of Barking, denied fraud by false representation but was convicted after a trial.

The father of two will be sentenced on February 4.

He picked up Ms Oruwari from London Bridge station at 10pm on June 29 last year when she was unable to catch a train home to East Croydon.

The singer said Mihai struck up a conversation about her sight loss during the journey.

She told the court: “I felt irritated because it was none of his business, but as I was in his car I thought it best to be polite. He said I was getting on with life well and was happy and I said, ‘Yes, there’s nothing to be sad about’.

“He told me he could not end the trip on his app and asked if I could give him my phone to end it. I thought it was a little odd, but there was nothing in his behaviour to make me think I wasn’t safe. I did not think anything fishy was going on, but I was handing him a lot of trust.”

Ms Oruwari turned off her phone’s screenreader function, which reads text aloud, and passed the handset to Mihai. Only later did she discover what he had done.

“I was shocked that I had been charged twice the fare, although I knew there would be a price surge, but also that the driver had been rated five-star and tipped £20,” she said.

“The only time I did not have the phone was when I gave it to him and had to switch off the screenreader so couldn’t hear what was happening.”

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