Vegas driver for child rideshare firm faces criminal charges

National

This Clark County Detention Center booking photo shows Ranier Salcedo Braga, 50, of Las Vegas, following his arrest Friday, Feb. 21, 2020, on misdemeanor unlawful contact with a minor and luring a child charges. Braga, a driver for the child-oriented rideshare company HopSkipDrive, is accused of making improper comments to a 13-year-old girl he was driving to school. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department via AP)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A driver for a child-oriented rideshare company that began contracting with government authorities last month is accused of having unlawful contact with a 13-year-old girl he transported to a Las Vegas-area middle school, authorities said Wednesday.

Ranier Salcedo Braga, 50 was not asked to enter a plea to misdemeanor unlawful contact and luring a minor charges stemming from alleged comments to the girl that Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman characterized as “disturbing, if true” and “entirely inappropriate.”

Details of the comments and documents in the case have not been made public. The judge referred to riders being picked up at a county-operated children’s shelter.

Las Vegas police on Tuesday announced Braga had been arrested Friday, and invited people who “feel they may have been victimized” to contact sex assault detectives.

Prosecutor Megan Thompson and Braga’s court-appointed lawyer, Robson Hauser, acknowledged that Braga had no criminal history. Braga told the judge he’s a divorced father of a teenage son who moved to Las Vegas from Hawaii five years ago.

Braga said he managed a car repair shop in suburban Henderson, drove for ride-hailing service Lyft for more than three years and passed a background screening including fingerprinting, photograph and criminal history check to drive unaccompanied children for HopSkipDrive.

Clark County on Tuesday suspended a one-year, $250,000 contract with HopSkipDrive that officials last month touted as a way to get foster children and at-risk youth to and from school.

The contract was to be worth up to $1.25 million over four years if the Clark County School District and county Department of Family Services exercised all renewal options, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal .

A HopSkipDrive official did not respond to an email from The Associated Press. The Los Angeles-based company operates in 12 other cities. In a statement to the Review-Journal, it said it enforces “a strict zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct between riders and drivers.”

“Any allegation of wrongdoing results in an immediate suspension or termination of a (driver’s) account pending investigation,” it said.

The judge scheduled a preliminary hearing of evidence March 11.

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