A former Lyft driver who police nicknamed the “Rideshare Rapist” appeared in court for the first time Tuesday after being charged with a dozen felonies for allegedly raping four women in San Francisco.
Orlando Vilchez Lazo, a 37-year-old San Mateo resident, is accused of picking up at least two women who were waiting for ridehail vehicles outside bars in San Francisco and raping them in November 2013 and February 2018. Lazo has also been linked through forensic evidence to two rapes this May and June.
Lazo walked into the courtroom dressed in orange jail garb alongside Deputy Public Defender Eric Quandt, his attorney for the day. He is a man of short stature and an undocumented immigrant from Peru who has no known criminal history to authorities in San Francisco.
On Monday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency released a statement lambasting San Francisco for its sanctuary city policies over the case. But Because Lazo has no criminal record, sanctuary city laws that prevent the jail from holding an undocumented immigrant for deportation do not appear to be an issue at play.
“ICE has made this case about sanctuary laws and immigration status and that has nothing to do with the charges that are being brought by the district attorney,” Quandt told reporters outside the courtroom, declining to address the allegations. “It is completely premature to be talking about the facts as alleged.”
The fact that Lazo is undocumented is a hot topic because San Francisco released Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, from jail in 2015 without notifying ICE. A few months later, he shot and killed 32-year-old Kate Steinle on Pier 14.
Garcia Zarate was ultimately acquitted of the most serious charges for the shooting, which his attorneys argued was an accident.
Lazo is facing four counts of rape by force or threat of bodily injury, three counts of kidnapping, three counts of kidnapping to commit rape and two counts of sexual penetration by foreign object, force and violence. In three of the four cases, Lazo is facing additional allegations of using a knife.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge Braden Woods ordered Lazo to be held without bail because multiple of the charges carry up to a life sentence.
Prosecutors and police have released few details about the rapes, which occured Nov. 1, 2013, Feb. 18, May 5 and June 10. Police linked the first two cases together because both women were waiting for a rideshare driver. In June, forensic evidence linked the third case to the first two.
The San Francisco Police Department then formed a task force with the District Attorney’s Office to identify and arrest the “Rideshare Rapist” and connected the suspect to the fourth case earlier this month.
On July 7, Special Victims Unit investigators looking for “suspicious rideshare vehicles” pulled over Lazo and collected his DNA. Last Tuesday, police tested the DNA and confirmed it matched the June sexual assault.
Lazo was arrested outside his home last Thursday and booked into County Jail.
A day later, ICE filed a detainer request for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to hold Lazo for deportation if he is released from custody. The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department does not honor such requests without a warrant.
Kate Margolis, a spokesperson for Lyft, confirmed that Lazo drove for the company on Tuesday.
“As soon as we were made aware of these horrific and deeply disturbing allegations, we immediately deactivated him,” Margolis said in a statement. “We are still investigating at this time, but with the information presented, have no reason to believe these incidents occurred on the platform.”
Lazo has not yet entered a plea and is scheduled to return to court Thursday for arraignment.
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