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Prosecutor: Ride-hailing driver made inappropriate comments to teen

A man accused of inappropriate contact with a teen using a ride-hailing service for kids has no prior criminal history, prompting a judge to keep him on house arrest with high-level monitoring by authorities.

Ranier Braga, 50, of Las Vegas, was arrested Friday and charged with luring a child and unlawful contact with a minor. Clark County spokesman Dan Kulin said Braga was a driver for HopSkipDrive, a ride hailing service for children that mainly provides transportation to and from school. Kulin said the county has suspended the use of the app while the incident leading to Braga’s arrest is investigated.

Few details about the specific allegations against Braga have been publicly released, but during a court appearance Wednesday morning before Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Ann Zimmerman, a prosecutor said Braga is accused of inappropriate behavior while giving a 13-year-old a ride from the Child Haven shelter to a local middle school.

“While I recognize what we are looking at in the criminal complaint are gross misdemeanors, when you look at the underlying facts, it is actually a very terrifying situation,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Megan Thomson. “This is a defendant who put himself in a position to specifically have contact with children.”

Thomson alleged that when Braga gave the youth a ride to school, inappropriate comments were made to the teen.

“The other kids I’ve picked up at Child Haven, I’ve noticed some of them have anklets so they can be traced,” Thomson quoted Braga as saying to the youth. “Do you have an anklet?”

Court proceedings revealed Braga has never been arrested before and went through a background check before he was hired by HopSkipDrive. Braga said in court he’s a native of Hawaii who has worked for nearly four years as a five-star rated Lyft driver in Las Vegas.

“You have to go through an application process,” Braga said of working for HopSkipDrive. “It is a more intensive background check from Uber and Lyft. It’s a new one.”

Zimmerman continued a prior judge’s order that Braga be placed in a high-level monitoring system that includes an ankle bracelet. She also continued requirements that Braga have no contact with the victim and stay away from Child Haven.

“The conversations that are relayed in your arrest report are disturbing to me and if proven to be true are entirely inappropriate,” Zimmerman said.

Las Vegas police put out a press release on Tuesday urging anyone with information about Braga “or who feels they may have been victimized by him” to call police at 702-828-3421.

Contact Glenn Puit at gpuit@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0390. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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