Offer a Ride, Lose Your Car


Thank God this criminal has been stopped before he strikes again:

A man who said he thought he was just helping a woman in need is accused of running an illegal taxi service.

Miami-Dade County's Consumer Services Department has slapped Rosco O'Neil with $2,000 worth of fines, but O'Neil claims he is falsely accused.

"I ain't running nothing illegal," O'Neil said.

The 78-year-old said he was walking into a Winn-Dixie to get some groceries when he was approached by a woman who said she needed a ride.

"She asked me, 'Do I do a service?'" O'Neil said. "I told her no. She said, 'I need help getting home.'"

O'Neil told the woman if she was still there when he finished his shopping, he would give her a ride. She was, so he did.

As it turned out, the woman was an undercover employee with the consumer services department targeting people providing illegal taxi services.

"She said the reason she targeted him (is because) she saw him sitting in his car for a few minutes," said Ellen Novodeletsky, O'Neil's attorney.

After O'Neil dropped off the woman, police surrounded him, issued him two citations and impounded his minivan. On top of the fees, it cost O'Neil an additional $400 to retrieve his minivan from the impound lot.

There are no prior complaints that O'Neil was providing illegal transportation for a fee.

"It's not entrapment because she didn't expect him to provide her transportation," said Sonya Perez, a spokeswoman for the consumer services department.

O'Neil claims he was just being kind and providing a ride to a lady in need.

"There's all kinds of possibilities, but the fact of this particular case, what our enforcement officers witnessed — because we had several on the scene, plus a Miami-Dade police officer — and all the information came back the same, that this was a business transaction," Perez said.

O'Neil said he never even discussed money until the woman insisted upon it.

"She asked me, 'How much you charging?'" O'Neil said. "I said, 'Anything you give me.' She said, 'No, I need a price.'"