Police: Suffolk Uber driver raped underage girl

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RIVERHEAD -

An Uber driver faces a third-degree rape charge after police say he had a sexual relationship with an underage girl he met through the app.

"That right there is disgusting, and I would kill him," says Jonette Jackson, of Brentwood, who like other parents says she's horrified by the story.

Southampton Town police say Steven Palmer, 33, gave the 16-year-old victim a ride on Dec. 1, and the two quickly developed a sexual relationship. Southampton investigators say another agency contacted the town's police department last month to report the activity.

"He did develop a relationship -- that followed with some inappropriate contact," says Steven Skrynecki, the town's police chief. "She being a minor. He being in his 30s."

Police say they arrested the Medford man on Sunday. They say the statutory rape charge is based on the victim's age.

"What's been described has no place on the Uber app," the company said. "Upon learning of this, we immediately removed the driver's access to the app."

Authorities are asking anyone with information or who believe they may also be a victim to call Southampton police at 631-702-2230.

"It seems like this driver was using his Uber vehicle to attract potential victims," says Laura Ahearn, of Parents for Megan's Law. 

She says this case shows young riders should use the buddy system and avoid traveling alone.

"I think I would definitely rethink my child going into an Uber, if she were underage," says Connie Iannacone, a mom from Bay Shore.

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