San Francisco police say a San Mateo County man raped at least four women over a period of five years by posing as a ride-hail driver.
Orlando Vilchez Lazo, 37, was arrested Thursday after forensic evidence linked him to several rapes dating back as far back as 2013.
Commander Greg McEachern said the first known attack by the suspect occurred in 2013 after a woman was picked up by what she thought was a ride-hail driver at a San Francisco bar and taken to an unspecified location, where he raped her.
The woman reported the assault and the results of a forensic examination were entered into a DNA database.
No matches came up then and for nearly five years the case sat unsolved, but then in February and May of this year two other women were raped by an attacker using a similar method of posing as a ride-hail driver.
In both cases, the DNA matched that of the earlier 2013 assault.
At that point, police realized they had a serial rapist. They formed a task force to track him down and dubbed him the “Rideshare Rapist,” McEachern said. In addition to the department’s Special Investigations Division, the task force pulled in state and federal investigators as well as officials from the district attorney’s office and plainclothes officers.
In June, a fourth sexual assault occurred that DNA linked to the same suspect, but police still did not know his identity.
McEachern said the task force was running operations “continuously” to try to catch the suspect and was preparing a sketch and profile to release next week to the public to warn women of the danger.
Then on July 7, officers conducting an operation in the South of Market pulled over a driver that matched the suspect’s description. Police obtained DNA evidence and by Tuesday afternoon had their confirmation that the suspect matched the evidence in four other rapes.
McEachern said police believe there may be other victims out there.
“These assaults were not date rapes, they were not acquaintance rapes, these assaults were violent,” McEachern said, describing Lazo as a “sexual deviant predator who was not going to stop until he was caught.”
Lazo is in custody on charges including false imprisonment, kidnapping, assault with the intent to commit rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object and rape. Bail has been set at $4 million.
Police are investigating whether Lazo was at any point actually employed by a ride-hail company.
McEachern indicated that police have encountered other cases in which women have been raped by men posing as rideshare drivers. He encouraged women to make sure they had someone with them when they went out, so that they did not have to ride alone, and reminded rideshare users to make sure that the face, vehicle type and license plate matched what they saw on their screen before they got into a vehicle.
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