Uber is helping investigators look into account that sent driver to US home where she was killed

Police have said the Hall’s Uber trip to pick up a package was ordered by the same person who made scam calls to Brock, or by an accomplice. — AP

Uber is helping investigators look into an account that sent a driver to the Ohio home where an 81-year-old man allegedly shot the woman to death because he erroneously believed she was part of a scam that targeted him, the ride-hailing company said on April 17.

The March 25 shooting death of Loletha Hall is “a horrific tragedy”, and that account has since been banned, an Uber spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement. “Our hearts continue to be with Loletha’s loved ones as they grieve.”

William J. Brock was indicted Monday on charges of murder, felonious assault and kidnapping for Hall’s death. Messages seeking comment were left Wednesday for him and for his lawyer, Paul Kavanagh of Springfield, Ohio.

The grand jury also said that a gun seized from Brock’s home, a .22-caliber revolver, is subject to forfeiture. Brock has pleaded not guilty.

Police said Brock called 911 before noon to say he had shot someone at his South Charleston home, claiming Hall had tried to rob him. Investigators later said the driver was unaware of the scam call that Brock had received with threats and demands for money, citing an incarcerated relative.

Hall “made no threats or assaults toward Mr. Brock, and made no demands, other than to ask about the package she was sent to retrieve through the Uber app”, the Clark County Sheriff's Office wrote in an April 11 release. The police agency said Brock “produced a gun and held her at gunpoint, making demands for identities of the subjects he had spoken with on the phone”.

It’s not clear exactly what the phone callers said to Brock, but the sheriff’s office news release included a reminder, particularly to older people, that law enforcement and courts do not solicit cash for bail money “in the manner of this case”.

“We encourage all citizens to use extreme caution when being contacted unexpectedly by subjects claiming to be relatives incarcerated in a correctional facility, or claiming to have direct knowledge of relatives incarcerated in a correctional facility,” the sheriff's office warned.

The FBI in January issued an alert regarding government impersonation scams that send couriers to the homes of their targets – often older people – to collect money, or have them purchase gold and other precious metals. The FBI said its Internet Crime Complaint Center recorded that such activity had resulted in losses of more than US$55mil (RM262.65mil) in the last eight months of 2023.

A 2021 survey of older adults in the Chicago area found that when people were told by a fictitious government agency their personal information was compromised, those with low awareness of scams were particularly vulnerable.

Police have said the Hall’s Uber trip to pick up a package was ordered by the same person who made scam calls to Brock, or by an accomplice.

Brock is accused of taking Hall’s cellphone and not letting her leave, then shooting her to death when she tried to get into her vehicle. The sheriff’s office said it is investigating “the original scam call to Mr. Brock by the male subject” and the package delivery order through the app.

Brock shot Hall two more times, sustaining a minor head injury himself during the confrontation, and then called 911, police said. Hall, a Columbus resident who police said was not armed, later died at a hospital.

He posted US$200,000 (RM955,100) bail and was released from the Clark County Jail on Wednesday. FBI spokesperson Todd Lindgren with the agency's Cincinnati office said it was aware of the murder but declined to confirm or deny whether it was involved in the case.

In an obituary in which her name was given as Lo-Letha “Letha” Toland-Hall, Hall was described as the parent of a son and a stepson, a devoted member of her church and a talented cook known for delicious pound cakes. She retired from Ohio’s Regional Income Tax Agency and also worked in behavioural health, at a school and for Uber. She studied horticulture at Ohio State and started a janitorial business. – AP

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