tv NBC Bay Area We Investigate NBC December 1, 2018 6:30pm-7:00pm PST
campaign for governor and raise $100 million on chump change, you don't understand politics. announcer: how much influence does that money buy? we follow the cash and find tens of millions of dollars given to politicians in green california by the oil and gas industry. then, the tow company responsible for the death of a san francisco city worker never should have been on the road that day. jose preciado: i want this guy off the street, you know? companies like that, they have no business being out in the street. announcer: tonight, you'll hear from the family now taking action to keep that company from towing another car. but first, we'll go inside an underground market that lets people rent rideshare accounts and drive without being vetted. some may not even have a driver's license, which puts you at risk if you get in their car. here's investigative reporter liz wagner. liz wagner: good evening, and thanks for joining us.
tonight, we go in depth into four investigations already drawing thousands of viewers online at nbcbayarea.com. and we begin with a look into a new scheme putting rideshare passengers at risk. when you get into an uber or lyft, how do you know who's really behind the wheel? we've uncovered an underground market that allows people to rent rideshare accounts and drive without going through a background check, and you, as the passenger, would never know it. female: well, i'm supposed to be trusting them to give me a ride, get me to my destination, but-- liz: back in july, this young richmond woman took a lyft home from work. but she no female: and he's like ,"oh, oh," and he starts backin' up on a one-way street. i'm like--and this is the entering street onto the highway, and he's backing up on this one-way. i was like, "do not do that, don't." he's like, "no?" and i was like "no." liz: she steered him back to the road, but then he tried to make a u-turn at a red light.
female: he just kept edging on, edging on 'cause the light never turned green 'cause he didn't set off the sensor, and he turned left to do a u-turn on incoming traffic. liz: she held her breath through near misses and wrong turns. when the driver overshot her house, she decided to get out and walk. liz: did you feel like you were in danger? female: yeah, definitely. i was really thinkin', like, "i am not going to die with my lyft driver." liz: turns out, the man shouldn't have been driving her at all. he isn't an authorized lyft driver, and didn't even create the account. he rented it. we know because just days earlier, we rented the same one. liz: here's how it works. we joined a few online chat groups where we found dozens of advertisements, 200 bucks here, 180 bucks there, to rent uber and lyft driver accounts. liz: you pay the broker who sets it all up, and then you link to your bank account. the money you make driving is yours to keep. it's a workaround for people who can't pass background checks or
vehicle inspections. we paid 150 bucks for access to a lyft account. we never drove, but the account history shows cars giving rides to plenty of unsuspecting passengers throughout the bay area. liz: the scheme allows renters to swap in their own selfie and car information to the app so they can drive under someone else's name, and passengers would never know the difference. the broker even made an insurance card and vehicle inspection form for us, both fake. liz: but we found the name and driver's license number attached to the account belonged to a real person. male: so, i don't know-- liz: we tracked him down in la, but when we called-- liz: have you ever driven for lyft? male: no. liz: you've never been a lyft driver? male: not once. liz: he had no idea what we were talking about. male: realor liz: he doesn't want us to use his name, but he did agree to talk on camera. turns out, his identity was stolen and used to crea male: there shouldn't be a way for someone with just information to open an account in my nameho
prove and verify that it is actually me opening that account. liz: but it's happened time and time again. we found dozens of complaints filed with the federal trade commission by people claiming their identities were used to create rideshare accounts. here in california, the dmv investigates counterfeit driver's licenses and fraudulent documents. tom wilson: this is brand-new to us, at least these types of allegations, and we welcome the fact that you're bringin' it to us. liz: deputy chief tom wilson says his office can look into fake accounts, but much of the responsibility lies with the companies themselves. tom: we really do put the front end of the work to the companies 'cause they're the one that puts the process in place to establish, "is this the female: and not only did he trick women who were waiting for uber-- liz: lyft has already acknowledge cracks in its driver authentication system. take the recent case of the alleged rideshare rapist. lyft says he fraudulently represented himself to gain employment as a driver. liz: we wanted to ask lyft what it's doing to safeguard against fraud, but the company declined our interview request,
saying only: "what's being described is extremely concerning. we have a dedicated team that investigates fraudulent behavior, which may result in immediate deactivation from the platform. liz: uber pointed to several measures it uses to prevent account sharing and detect fraud, and says, "just because someone creates an account, it doesn't mean it can be rented successfully. female: i was like, "oh, man. i'm really gonna get in a car accident with this guy." liz: the young richmond passenger says after what happened to her, lyft needs to do a better job cross-referencing a driver's license with the person setting up the account. liz: do you feel like the company put your safety at risk? female: definitely. liz: rideshare rentals are nearly impossible to distinguish that's why the dmv says it's so important for rideshare companies to prevent it. we do have some tips on how to vet your driver on our website. you can check them out at nbcbayarea.com. announcer: up next, new concerns involving san
our diseased streets investigation uncovered a potentially dangerous concoction of trash, drug needles, and feces scattered across downtown san francisco. well, now we've learned the city has been paying a public relations firm that wants you to believe san francisco is nearly spotless, despite soaring complaints about filth. ♪ bigad: if jazz is the intersection of chaos and beauty, ♪ then san francisco might just share the same address. [clapping] that's at least how ricky wilson sees it. he's a 70-year-old jazz singer who spent his entire career performing at walking over every day?u ricky: [laughing]
you name it. ♪ i'll be sittin' till the evening comes. ♪ ricky: you step over [bleep]. you step over--you step over garbage. and the main thing you step over are people, human beings. bigad: the san francisco public works is in charge of cleaning up the city. its $72 million street-cleaning budget has spiked more than 80% in just 6 years. we've also learned the department has been paying a public relations firm that wants you to believe the city is pretty much pristine. bigad: public works hired the pr firm jbr five years ago to survey san francisco. the team walks the city looking for trash, syringes, and human waste. they then rate san francisco's streets and sidewalks each year on a scale from 1 to 3, 1 being very clean, 3, very dirty. last year, the pr company gave san francisco an average rating of 1.18 for commercial areas, 1.06 for
residential neighborhoods. those are near perfect scores, which means san francisco should be just about spotless. bigad: what does that make you think? ricky: they're lyin'. bigad: the pr company never responded to our requests for comment, but san francisco has paid the firm more than $400,000 for its work. ricky: that's boggling, that's mind boggling. bigad: according to that same pr agency, last year, san francisco was the cleanest it's been in four years. but during that time, those in the city noticed more filth, not less. last year, san francisco received 20,000 complaints about human feces, 58,000 about trash on streets and sidewalks, and 6,000 complaints about used drug needles. that's up 228% in just 4 years. bigad: that raised some red flags for you. dan gonger: yes. bigad: dan gonger is a budget analyst for the city, and says he was shocked by the results of that pr survey. bigad: why were you so surprised?
dan:being a very clean city. i don't picture san francisco as bigad: is that part of your concern, that their findings might be flawed? dan: yes, yes. why are these performance measures showing improvement when, at the same time, the number of complaints to the city has continued to increase year after year? bigad: mohammed nuru is the director of public works, and says city hall is taking steps to clean up san francisco. bigad: at the end of the day, you're in charge of keeping this city clean. mohammed nuru: that's right. bigad: would you say that you're doing a good job? mohammed: i'm trying. bigad: extra crews have been assigned to was ash away feces and pick up used drug needles across town, and the city helps to staff 23 public restrooms. five just opened this summer. but nuru says san francisco is still in the
midst of an emergency. bigad: how, then, could a pr company your department hired near-perfect score when it comes to cleanliness? mohammed: we continue to work at this every day. these are situations that no one of us created. bigad: but forgive me, mr. nuru, i didn't hear an answer there. are you familiar with the jbr report? mohammed: oh, yes, i am. bigad: you've been paying jbr upwards of $400,000. mohammed: and that data is being used to make decisions for the city around cleanliness of sidewalks and neighborhoods. bid:overeedles and human waste, and a pr company you paid says san francisco is spic and span. mohammed: there are many parts of our city that don't have some of the things that you are talking about. they might have sampled some of the nicer parts of the city. bigad: city auditors helped design those surveys, but now even they have concerns the findings are not accurate.
they're now partnering with public works to overhaul the way san francisco measures cleanliness. ♪ when i, i wonder, can i talk to you. ♪ bigad: ricky wilson knows this city. he's walked the streets and says trying to pass them off as pristine is tone deaf. ricky: 'cause there is--here in this city, man 'cause this is the city, man. don't just keep steppin' over it. don't keep talkin' about what it is and it ain't. because it's a beautiful place, man, and it's a beautiful people. bigad: it should be better than this. the streets of san francisco? we wanna hear from you. you can tag us on social media or just use the #weinvestigate. announcer: next, we investigate how much money the oil and gas industry is giving to politicians in green california.
but campaign finance records dating back to 2001 show the oil and gas industry gave $182 million to dozens of those same state politicians, as well as to both political parties. that's more in political contributions than hollywood, the banks, utilities, even casinos. male: is an alliance dedicated to economic growth. male: we will stand united in advancing improvements in efficiency-- male: this summit is advancing the cause. female: we really need our elected officials to stand up. stephen: contra costa resident pennie opal plant says all the talk and environmentally green images coming out of sacramento obscure the real role the oil and gas industry plays here in state politics. pennie opal plant: most people don't know how much money politicians are accepting from the fossil fuel lobby. [chanting] stephen: plant participated in protests during the recent global climate change summit in san francisco.
pennie: it's a powerful lobby. you know, they've got the big money to be able to do that, we don't. daniel newman: and oil companies are among the top interest groups in california. stephen: daniel newman founded maplight, a nonpartisan group based in berkeley that tracks money and politics. newman says pennie opal plant has a point. daniel: these companies have enormous influence in deciding what laws get made. that's contrary to ordinary voters like you and me. stephen: with the help of maplight data analysts, we tracked direct campaign contributions dating back to 2001 through june 30 of this year. we found $182 million, which ranked california at the top of states where oil and gas political donations play a role of that $182 million. our analysis shows $112 million went to support various ballot measures. another $61 million went to political action committees, and the state democratic and republican parties.
daniel: we don't have as much voice as interest groups like oil companies who give millions of dollars a year. stephen: that $182 million puts oil and gas in the top 8 of all industry and special interest givers here in california. and it's more oil and gas money given to political causes in california than north dakota, montana, new mexico, and texas combined, all according to the national institute on money and politics. stephen: that's as lot of money. is that an inordinate amount of power here in sacramento? catherine reheis-boyd: no, i think it's absolutely the political process we live in. stephen: catherine reheis-boyd serves as president of the western states petroleum association, representing all the major oil and gas companies in arizona, californneay wve made great progress with being able to have a seat at the table with the environmentalists. stephen: reheis-boyd makes no apologies for the industry contributing to political causes and to candidates that it feels will best represent its interests. stephen: does the oil industry have jerry brown's ear?
catherine: yeah, i think so. i think it would be fair to say we are able to have a good conversation with the administration and with the agencies within it. governor brown: the real challenge is the consumption of oil, which has gone up. stephen: we asked governor brown about all of this oil and gas campaign money during the climate change summit. stephen: you and state democrats have accepted millions from the oil industry, so how can you be a climate leader if you do that? governor brown: hey, we--you know that politics runs on money, billions and billions of dollars. and all those people are in the industry, so that's part of what it is.ay plans in the western hemisphere. stephen: when we tracked direct contributions from oil and gas, we found only about $159,000 going to the brown campaign since 2005. about $120,000 of those dollars came in one election cycle,
his last campaign for governor. stephen: your campaign, dating back to 2005, took $159,000 from the oil and gas industry. is that at odds--? governor brown: wait a minute, is that all? i've raised about $15 million. that's a very small percentage. stephen: but the group consumer watchdog in this report contends that governor brown took even more money from oil and gas over the years. jamie court: you take oil industry money, you can't stop drilling in this state. that's the problem. stephen: jamie court, president of consumer watchdog, says their report tracked $9.85 million in indirect contributions to br ballot initiatives, and through the state democratic party, which then gave money to the governor. jamie: don't claim you're a climate leader if you're not willing to stop fossil fuels and fossil fuel drilling. stephen: governor brown disputes this, saying his record and the state's leadership in fighting climate change speaks for itself. stephen: does the oil and gas industry have inordinate power in sacramento? governor brown: no, not at all, but they do have power. not as much as the insurance companies.
not as much as the labor unions. not as much as the plastic companies. stephen: pharmaceuticals are higher. governor brown: the pharmaceuticals, they've all got power. you've gotta be able to stand up and say, "no," to people. but if you think that you can run a campaign for governor and raise $100 million on chump change, you don't understand politics. stephen: governor brown's critics, like jamie court, say california has more than 1,400 offshore oil wells in state-controlled waters, even as the governor fights with the trump administration over offshore drilling in federal wat and those same critics point than 20,000 new oil-drilling permits here on land while governor brown has been in office. announcer: coming up, the father of a san francisco city worker killed in a towing accident speaks out. why he says his family is taking action to protect yours.
city worker killed in a towing accident is speaking out tonight about what he calls, "a public safety threat." as we first told you, the tow company responsible for his daughter's death had already racked up millions of dollars in fines and safety violations. now the family is taking action to get the tow trucks off the road. jose preciado: is missin' her mom. that's a very, very smart girl, and i guess it's hard to explain
to a three-year-old. vicky: lilianna preciado's father, jose, is now raising his granddaughter alina. jose: i told her that her mom went to bed and woke up in heaven, and she wants to go to heaven. vicky: her mother, lilianna, died after being pinned in a ditch where she was working when a tow truck driver lost control of this car. the gaping hole left by her loss felt every day by her family. everything reminds me of her vicky: knowing what you know now, how do you feel about that company? jose: i'm upset, i'm upset at them. i'm upset at why they're still in business, why they're still operating. vicky: back in july, the investigative unit first
uncovered that irvine auto towing, which also goes by the names stride, pride, and modestow, was operating without a permit the day lilianna was killed, which is illegal, according to the chp. two months earlier, state regulators had already suspended irvine's permit after finding a string of safety problems, including hiring unlicensed drivers, towing cars without safety restraints, and failing to have insurance. the preciado family has now filed a lawsuit against the towing company and state farm insurance, the preciado family has now filed a lawsuit against the vicky: do you think state farm put public safety at risk by hiring this company? chuck geerheart: there's no doubt, that can do the job safely. vicky: attorney chuck geerheart represents the preciado family. chuck: insurance companies like state farm have access to all kinds of sophisticated databases. they can tell you in a minute whether an individual driver has any blemishes on their record. they would certainly know whether modestow,
dba pride towing, had performance problems. vicky: we reached out to state farm to ask whether the company still uses irvine auto towing, and if it's aware of irvine's safety record. in a statement, state farm said: "while we do not comment on pending litigation...state farm does not have any direct business relationships with towing providers," including irvine auto towing. vicky: a company with this kind of history, where they're operating without a license, without insurance, should they be shut down? male: yes, they should. vicky: after we started asking questions, chp inspected the tow company's offices in oakland and anaheim, and cited irvine for towing cars on a suspended permit. they also issued two unsatisfactory ratings for other safety issues. but records show irvine got its permit back within days by purchasing insurance, which means the company is still towing. jose: i want these guys off the street, you know? companies like that, they have no business being out on the street. vicky: jose preciado says nothing can fill the hole left
by lilianna's death, but with law enforcement's limited power, legal action may be the only way to take this tow company off the road. jose: i want justice. we already lost one life. we don't nobody else, you know, to lose no more lives. vicky: we reached out to the owners of irvine auto towing, andy and noelle yocko, but they did not return our calls for comment. meanwhile, chp is expected to conduct a follow-up inspection later this fall. if the company receives another unsatisfactory rating, the state could permanently revoke its permit. we'll be watching. if you have a story for us, give us a call at 888-996-tips, or you can visit us on the web at nbcbayarea.com/investigations. that's our show for tonight. thank you for watching. we invite you to join us every night on nbc bay area, where we investigate.
49ers game plan. 49ers looked like rubin foster who was arrested on a domestic violence charge in tampa. it meant taking a good hard look at a multitude of mistakes on the field. that's all in the rearview mirror. the seahawks will face tm that's given them problems before. he saw much success during his tenure, he was named to the pro bowl four times, led the league in inninger exceptions in 2013. he racked up 280 solo tackles. matt maiocco sat down to talk sherman's return to seattle