Pinellas taxi driver accused of sexually assaulting blind woman in back of his cab

Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Pinellas County cab driver is facing serious charges and police say he sexually assaulted a passenger in the back seat of his cab.

50-year old Joe Fernandez is facing two counts of sexual battery, kidnapping and one charge of abuse of an elderly or disabled person.

According to the arrest reports, Fernandez, who was driving a United Cab, picked up the woman, who is blind, at an undisclosed location. At some point during the trip, the victim had passed out in the back seat.

When Fernandez arrived at a hotel in Treasure Island, the reports state he assaulted and raped the woman.

Treasure Island Police Chief John Barkley says a friend of the woman she was supposed to meet at that location, caught Fernandez in the act.

“The friend realized it had been some time since the person should have been there,” said Barkley. “Went down to the hotel parking lot looked into the back of the taxi cab and witnessed the sexual assault taking place.”

Barkley says Fernandez climbed back into the driver’s seat and took off, with the woman still in the back seat. Officers put out a BOLO, or be on the lookout, and a Pinellas deputy located Fernandez driving the cab in South Pasadena and stopped him.

Abby Rivera can’t believe the allegations are true. Fernandez rented a room from her in her Town N’ Country home in Hillsborough County.

“He quiet, he go to work. He quiet he comes back,” said Rivera. “Never problems with him.”

Veteran Cab Driver Michael Bonsante is shocked.

“I think it’s terrible, tragic,” said Bonsante, who can’t understand how something like this would happen. “Every taxi cab driver goes through an FBI background check. We just don’t hire anybody. “

Fernandez is currently being held in the Pinellas County Jail on a $255,000 bond.

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