Police have nabbed an alleged serial rapist dubbed the “Rideshare Rapist” who they say prowled the streets of San Francisco posing as an e-hail driver for at least five years, officials said.
Orlando Vilchez Lazo, 37, was arrested Thursday, a week after police connected him to an assault on a woman in June using DNA evidence, and linked him to three earlier assaults, San Francisco Police said in a statement. The earliest assault allegedly happened in 2013.
In each of the four assaults, attack unfolded in a similar manner: a woman hailed a car using a rideshare app, and Lazo pulled up, pretended to be the woman’s driver, lured her into the car, and violently assaulted her, a police spokesman told Oxygen.com.
In a press conference Friday, the head of the department’s Investigations Bureau, Commander Greg McEachern, said Lazo was “for sure” responsible for all four assaults, according to the Washington Post.
“These assaults were not date rapes. These were not acquaintance rapes,” he said. “These assaults were violent rapes committed by a serial rapist, a sexually deviant predator who was not going to stop until he was caught.”
Now, authorities are asking the public to come forward with any information they might have about other assaults that could fit into the accused Rideshare Rapist’s modus operandi.
“We believe he’s a serial rapist,” Officer Robert Rueca, a San Francisco Police Department spokesman, told Oxygen.com. "We don’t have evidence that he may have committed more crimes, but based on his MO and how he had already victimized women, there’s potentially more victims out there.”
In the wake of the June 2018 assault, which was connected to the two prior attacks in February and in 2013, San Francisco police teamed up with the FBI, and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center to form a task force focused on catching the Rideshare Rapist, suspecting he would try again, police said in a statement.
On July 7, a surveillance operation by the department’s special victims unit struck gold, when investigators spotted azo behaving suspiciously in a vehicle marked as a rideshare car, police said. Officers pulled him over to collect DNA from him, which came up as a positive match for the June assault, according to a statement from police.
The department’s crime lab is still conducting tests to see if Lazo’s DNA matches that left behind in the three prior assaults, according to police.
Rueca, the department spokesman, said it was not immediately clear if Lazo had ever driven legitimately for a ridesharing company, but said investigators are looking into that with the cooperation of the company the suspect allegedly claimed to drive for, a company Rueca declined to identify citing the ongoing investigation.
It was not immediately clear if Lazo had a lawyer. As of Monday morning, he had not yet filed a plea, the Washington Post reported.
Rueca told Oxygen.com investigators are looking into whether Lazo has any prior criminal history in California or in other parts of the country.
In a similar case earlier this year, police arrested 44-year-old Nicolas Morales, in Alhambra, CA, alleging that he raped seven women around Los Angeles County between October 2016 and January 2018 after luring them into his car posing as an e-hail driver, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The San Francisco Police Department asked that anyone with information about the case or about any victims not currently known to investigators submit tips anonymously by contacting the SFPD Special Victims Unit at (415) 553-1521. The SFPD can also be contacted through its 24 hour tip line at (415) 575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD.
[Photo: San Francisco Police Department]