‘Uber’-branded drug bust is probably the last thing Uber needs right now

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“Getting an Uber” took on a new meaning today after federal drug enforcement agents announced the arrest of four men running a drug mill on Central Park West who were allegedly selling baggies of fentanyl and heroin stamped with the popular ride-hailing app’s logo.

Gothamist has most of the details on the bust, but according to the DEA, the suspects were found in possession of “two large ziplock bags containing approximately three kilograms of a suspected fentanyl and heroin combination from inside a hall closet, as well as 1,100 individual dose glassine envelopes that had been filled with powder and stamped with the brand name ‘UBER.’” The street value of the drugs is estimated to be $3 million, but it could be “millions more” depending on the potency. The drugs are being sent to the DEA’s labs for testing.


Photo: DEA

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Photos provided by the agency indeed show large stacks of baggies emblazoned with Uber’s logo rubber-banded together. But Uber wasn’t the only brand name coopted by the suspects. Other stamps featured logos like McDonald’s, Panda Express, and Animal Planet, as well as more generic names like “Viper,” “Rebel,” and “Time Bomb.”


Photo: DEA

One of the suspects arrested, Richard Rodriguez, was described as an Uber driver by the DEA. A spokesperson for Uber declined comment until Rodriguez’s identity could be confirmed. It wouldn’t be the first time Uber would be associated with drugs: earlier this year, dealers in Manhattan and the Bronx were posing as Uber drivers to sell cocaine and heroin, even using fake Uber placards in their vehicles.

While Uber obviously has little control over how its image is or isn’t used by people who choose to sell illicit substances, it certainly doesn’t need this kind of publicity right now, especially as it tried to rebuild itself after months of back-to-back scandals, culminating with the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick.

This story also calls to mind a story The Verge published last year about a small town in Florida that was trying to replace its public transit service with Uber. During the negotiations, the city manager received a document from Uber outlining its rules for use of its logo:

Uber also sent Martz a document instructing that its logo “should be treated with respect” and laying out in anxious detail what that entails. In promoting the program, Martz was forbidden from placing the Uber logo “anywhere that could degrade our brand,” including on doormats or anywhere else where it could be trodden on; on things like napkins or paper plates that would be quickly thrown away; on dartboards or urinals; on food, which, the document explains, will be sliced, broken, eaten, and is associated with the feces it will later become; or on underwear, condoms, “or anything else that would link Uber and sexual situations.”

Sounds like someone forgot to send these alleged drug dealers the memo about respecting Uber’s logo.

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