A Mexican man living in the U.S. illegally used his job as an Uber driver on the Central Coast to target intoxicated young women and was charged Monday with raping, assaulting and robbing four victims, prosecutors said.
Alfonso Alarcon-Nunez drove women to their homes, assaulted them and stole property including cellphones, computers and jewelry, officials said. He collected his fare payments through the smartphone app Venmo to disguise his identity and his Uber records.
DNA evidence helped lead detectives to Alarcon-Nunez, who was arrested at his Santa Maria home last week, San Luis Obispo County Dist. Atty. Dan Dow said at a news conference.
Alarcon-Nunez, 39, faces 10 criminal charges, including rape of an intoxicated victim and first-degree burglary. He pleaded not guilty to all charges at his arraignment and remained held in the San Luis Obispo County Jail with bail set at $1.47 million. His next court date was set for Jan. 29.
Detectives are looking for potential witnesses and trying to determine if there are additional alleged victims in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, where the Alarcon-Nunez had been driving for Uber since September, Dow said.
Alarcon-Nunez has also gone by the name "Bruno Diaz" and his Venmo username was "Brush Bat," prosecutors said.
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," Dow said.
He said the crimes show that Uber should improve its driver screening process, Dow said. Dow urged Uber users to make sure they are getting in the car of the correct driver by verifying the license plate and other information provided to clients.