Prosecutors: Rideshare Rapist preyed on ‘helpless’ women outside SF bars

It was just an hour after midnight earlier this month when a woman woke up in the backseat of a car and realized her hands were wet with her own blood. She had ordered an Uber home from a nightclub in San Francisco, but instead became one of four women attacked by the “Rideshare Rapist.”

Court records made public Wednesday revealed new details about the heinous crimes in which a man preyed on unsuspecting women who had called for Lyft and Uber rides home after drinking at bars and nightclubs in The City.

Authorities have identified Orlando Vilchez Lazo, a 37-year-old undocumented Peruvian resident of San Mateo who has no criminal record, as the alleged rapist. Lazo was registered as a Lyft driver until police linked him to the case, but never worked as an Uber driver, according to spokespersons for the companies.

The court records show that the Rideshare Rapist attacked women who fell asleep in the back of his car. The rapist took away their phones and struck when they were alone, in one case driving away with an unconscious woman in the backseat when her friend stepped out of the car to buy a bottle of water.

The Rideshare Rapist last attacked during the early morning hours of June 10, when the woman woke up with blood on her hands. The driver picked her up outside Temple Nightclub in South of Market at around 1 a.m. after she left her friends behind and called for an Uber ride home.

When the woman woke up inside the car parked in a place she did not know, the driver was in the back seat next to her. He threatened her and held a knife to her neck, which she tried to fend off with her own hands. The driver held her down and raped her until she was able to escape through the back door.

Prosecutors said the woman ran downhill through a neighborhood in San Francisco in search of help until she found a house where the residents let her call 911. The woman was taken to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, where authorities conducted a rape kit examination.

A month earlier on May 5, the Rideshare Rapist picked up another woman who had been out drinking wine with friends and ordered an Uber home from a bar. He then drove her to another location, pulled a knife and raped her.

She fought him off until she couldn’t out of fear for her own life. Prosecutors said the Rideshare Rapist then drove her home, where she called the police and went to ZSFGH for a rape kit examination.

On Feb. 18, the Rideshare Rapist struck again at Temple Nightclub. He picked up two women who had been refused an Uber ride because one of them was too sick from alcohol. About two blocks later, he pulled over because one of the women needed to vomit and told her friend to go buy water.

The Rideshare Rapist drove away while the friend was buying from a hotdog vendor, with the “helpless” woman in and out of consciousness in the backseat, according to the records. Prosecutors said he ignored the woman’s demands to take her home and used a knife to cut her clothes off before raping her.

The driver then took her home where she told her roommates, called police and went to ZSFGH for a rape kit examination.

Years earlier on Nov. 1, 2013, the Rideshare Rapist assaulted a woman he picked up outside a cocktail bar called Virgil’s Sea Room in the Mission. Prosecutors said he took the intoxicated woman to a secluded parking lot with nothing but warehouses around and raped her as she cried.

The woman told the driver she would not tell anyone if he took her home, and he listened, according to court records. But the woman then went to ZSFGH for a rape kit examination and reported the rape to police.

On July 7, Special Victims Unit investigators pulled Lazo over in what appeared to be a suspicious rideshare vehicle and collected his DNA, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

Three days later, police matched his DNA to the June rape. That rape had been connected through forensic evidence to the other three.

Police arrested Lazo last Thursday outside his home in San Mateo.

Lazo is charged with four counts of rape by force, three counts of kidnapping, three counts of kidnapping to commit rape and two counts of sexual penetration by force. Lazo is facing additional allegations of using a knife in three cases.

He has not yet entered a plea and is scheduled for arraignment Thursday.

On Tuesday, an attorney for the Public Defender’s Office representing Lazo said it was too soon to discuss the allegations.

A Lyft spokesperson said in a statement that the company terminated his status as a driver as soon as the company was made aware of the allegations.

“We are still investigating at this time, but with the information presented, have no reason to believe these incidents occurred on the platform,” Kate Margolis, a Lyft spokesperson, said. “Our thoughts are with the victims of these senseless acts, and we stand ready to assist law enforcement with an investigation.”

Andrew Hasbun, a spokesperson for Uber, said that riders “should always verify that the car they’re getting into matches the one that shows up in their app.”

“When you get an Uber, the driver’s name and pic show up in the app as well as the make and model of the car and license plate — riders should always check to make sure that it’s a match,” Hasbun said in an email. “Riders can also ask the driver ‘who are you here for?’”

A spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency has filed a detainer request for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to hold Lazo in the event that he is to be released from jail.

He is currently being held without bail.

Eric Quandt, the deputy public defender who represented Lazo earlier this week, said this case is not about Lazo’s immigration status.

Since Lazo has no prior criminal history, San Francisco sanctuary laws that prevent County Jail from cooperating with ICE to deport undocumented immigrants upon release from jail are not an issue in the case.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

Michael Barba
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Michael Barba

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