San Luis Obispo County prosecutors say a Mexican national who was living in the U.S. illegally, used his job as an Uber driver to target and prey on intoxicated young women. He was charged Monday with raping, assaulting and robbing four victims.
Alfonso Alarcon-Nunez, 39, faces 10 criminal charges, including include forcible rape, first-degree burglary, and rape of an intoxicated victim.
Prosecutors allege the crimes occurred between Dec. 17, 2017 and Jan. 14 of this year in San Luis Obispo. According to investigators, he drove the women to their homes, assaulted them and stole their property including, cell phones, computers, and jewelry.
Alarcon-Nunez used the smartphone app Venmo to collect his fare payments and to disguise his identity along with his Uber records.
DNA evidence led police detectives to the suspect who was arrested last week. Detectives are still looking for potential witnesses and trying to find out if there are additional victims that have not as yet come forward.
Alarcon-Nunez pleaded not guilty to all charges at his arraignment. He is being held in the San Luis Obispo County Jail with bail set at $1.47 million. His next court date is Jan. 29.
Law enforcement officials said Alarcon-Nunez was not always driving for Uber when he picked up women. Sometimes, drivers in cars parked outside bars or restaurants "jump in front of the actual Uber driver and they will take someone unsuspecting to their home. And that's a way of putting someone at risk, and in this case, that's exactly what's alleged to have happened," District Attorney Dan Dow said at a news conference.
Dow said the alleged crimes show that Uber should improve its screening methods. He reminded Uber users to make sure they are getting in the car with the correct driver by checking the license plate and other information supplied to them by the company.
Uber quickly responded.
"What police have reported is absolutely horrifying, and something no person should ever have to experience. We have been working with law enforcement to provide them with information for their investigation, and the driver has been permanently removed from the app," Uber spokesman Andrew Hasbun said in a statement Monday.
Alarcon-Nunez returned to the U.S. illegally after a voluntary deportation back to Mexico from New Mexico in 2005.
The state of California issues driver's licenses to immigrants in the country illegally. Alarcon-Nunez has held a valid license since 2015.
He could face life in prison if he's convicted of all charges.