Orlando Lazo is an undocumented immigrant who is accused of being a man police are calling the “rideshare rapist” in San Francisco, California.
In a statement to Heavy about the Lazo case, ICE slammed San Francisco for its sanctuary city policy. “The San Francisco County Jail does not honor ICE detainers nor notify ICE about the impending release of aliens in its custody. In doing so, the jail not only provides a refuge for illegal aliens, but it also shields criminal aliens who prey on people in the community,” ICE wrote.
Lazo who had worked as a Lyft driver, the company confirmed, and police say they connected a series of four sexual assaults to a serial rapist who preyed on women who were waiting for rideshare vehicles outside local taverns. The suspect’s full name is Orlando Vilchez Lazo. Authorities believe it’s possible there could be more victims.
San Francisco police Commander Greg McEachern, who called the suspect the “rideshare rapist,” said in a press conference that the attacks started in 2013 and shared the same modus operandi: “Someone is picked up on a ride share ruse, taken to another location, and sexually assaulted.” McEachern added, “These assaults were violent rapes committed by a serial rapist, a sexually deviant predator who was not going to stop until he was caught.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Police Say the Serial Rapist Preyed on Women Waiting for Rideshare Vehicles
The attacks were all similar, police say: The suspect would pull up in what looked like a rideshare vehicle with logo and pick up women who thought they were waiting for rideshares outside local taverns. Then, he would drive them somewhere else and sexually assault them.
In February 2018, the San Francisco Police Department “identified two sexual assaults which appeared to have been committed by the same suspect,” the department wrote in a news release. Police say both of those victims were waiting for rideshare vehicles outside bars.
“The first assault occurred in 2013 and the second in February of 2018. The cases were connected by forensic evidence and other identified factors. The survivors in each incident, while waiting for a commonly known rideshare service, entered automobiles which they believed were their rideshare vehicles outside local bars. They were then taken to another location and sexually assaulted.”
The police says the SFPD Special Victims Unit Sexual Assault investigators, Cold Case investigators and SFPD Crime Analysis Unit analysts “immediately began to search for other cases which bore any similarities to the first two cases. The San Francisco Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) also identified and discussed similarities between reports by other sexual assault survivors.”
They connected third and fourth cases and realized they had a serial rapist on hand, police say.
In June 2018, “the suspect was forensically connected to a third sexual assault which occurred in May of 2018. The San Francisco Police Department formed a taskforce which consisted of the Department’s Special Victims Unit, Crime Lab, Special Investigations, Crime Analysis Unit, Southern District Station plainclothes team and the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Crime Strategies Unit,” police say.
“This taskforce worked closely with the FBI and the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC) to identify and apprehend the suspect, referred to then as the Rideshare Rapist. In July 2018, the San Francisco Police Department Crime Lab was able to use forensic evidence to connect the Rideshare Rapist to a fourth sexual assault which occurred in June 2018.”
The suspect would take the victims to a different location and sexually assaulted them, police said.
“In 2013, there was a victim, now a survivor, who was picked up at a local bar here in San Francisco, believing she was picked up by one of the common ride share companies we see here in San Francisco…. The driver of that vehicle on a ruse that he was a ride share driver, took that victim to another location and sexually assaulted her,” McEachern said of the first known case.
A DNA profile was obtained and entered into the national database. At the time, the suspect’s DNA was not in the system. It sat there for five years. In February of 2018, there was another sexual assault around Valentine’s Day. Forensic evidence was obtained, and it was at that time that police recognized the offender from the incident in 2013 linked with the assault in February.
2. A Police Task Force Stopped Lazo as He Operated What Appeared to be a Rideshare Vehicle, Authorities Allege
The taskforce “followed numerous leads and the Special Victims Unit conducted a proactive surveillance operation every weekend in the downtown San Francisco area to prevent additional sexual assaults, monitor and log any suspicious rideshare vehicles and drivers or individuals posing as such, and ultimately to identify a suspect,” police say.
Police say Lazo’s DNA matched DNA from one of the crime scenes.
While conducting an operation the weekend of July 7, 2018, Special Victims Unit investigators “observed suspicious behavior from a driver operating what appeared to be a rideshare vehicle. The vehicle was subsequently stopped and the driver identified. The driver’s DNA was obtained and submitted for analysis and comparison. On Tuesday, July 10, 2018 the San Francisco Police Department Crime Lab confirmed that the driver’s DNA matched forensic evidence from the June sexual assault. The crime lab is conducting the final DNA confirmation tests on all four assaults.”
Police say Orlando Vilchez Lazo, 37, was taken into custody on July 12, 2018 outside his home in San Mateo County.
Vilchez Lazo was charged with “multiple offenses including false imprisonment, kidnapping, assault with intent to commit rape, sexual penetration with a foreign object and rape. Rideshare companies are cooperating with SFPD investigators to determine whether Vilchez Lazo has ever been a documented rideshare driver,” police said.
Police asked that any survivors or witnesses “to these assaults or any others that may have been perpetrated by Vilchez Lazo contact the SFPD Special Victims Unit at 415-553-1521. The SFPD can also be contacted through our 24 hour tip line at (415) 575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD. You may remain anonymous.”
There was a “traffic stop made on the individual,” said police.
3. ICE Says Lazo, Who Is From Peru, Is in the United States Illegally
ICE confirmed to Heavy that the agency placed a detainer hold on Orlando Lazo on July 13, 2018 with the San Francisco County Jail.
“On July 13, ICE lodged a detainer with the San Francisco County Jail on Orlando Vilchez Lazo –a citizen of Peru illegally present in the U.S –following his recent arrest on a variety of criminal charges – including rape, kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon,” ICE said in a statement released to Heavy.
“ICE maintains that cooperation by local law enforcement is an indispensable component of promoting public safety. The San Francisco County Jail does not honor ICE detainers nor notify ICE about the impending release of aliens in its custody. In doing so, the jail not only provides a refuge for illegal aliens, but it also shields criminal aliens who prey on people in the community.”
San Francisco police said Lazo did not have a prior record that would have resulted in his DNA being put into the system. San Francisco has been the focal point of the sanctuary city immigration debate nationally.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Lazo “had no previous criminal record in San Francisco.”
4. Lazo Used to Drive for the Rideshare Service Lyft, Which Has Advocated for ‘Humane Immigration Policies’ & Urged Donations to Help Protect ‘Immigrants’ Rights’
Lyft, the rideshare service, confirmed to KRON4 that Lazo used to drive for the company.
“We have confirmed that this person did drive for Lyft, but as soon as we were made aware of these horrific and deeply disturbing allegations, we immediately deactivated him. We are still investigating at this time, but with the information presented, we have no reason to believe these incidents occurred on the platform,” Lyft said in a statement to the television station.
Police said in a news conference that the suspect had a rideshare logo in his car, but they were still trying to confirm whether he actually worked for a rideshare company. They think it’s possible he drove for one part-time but attacked women while posing as one when not working, but they are still looking into that angle.
“The victims varied,” police said, adding that the suspect preyed in the entertainment district of the city.
Lyft has recently tweeted in support of “humane immigration policies,” writing, “Together we can fight for humane immigration policies. Round Up & Donate to the @ACLU today in order to support their continued work for immigrants’ rights.” That tweet was made on June 26, 2018. It goes to an American Civil Liberties Union causes donation page on the Lyft website.
5. More Than 100 Ride Share Drivers Have Been Accused of Sexual Assault, an Investigation Found
The case of the accused ride share rapist in San Francisco comes after a CNN investigation determined that at least “103 Uber drivers in the U.S. who have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years. The drivers were arrested, are wanted by police, or have been named in civil suits related to the incidents.”
The network continued: “At least 31 drivers have been convicted for crimes ranging from forcible touching and false imprisonment to rape, and dozens of criminal and civil cases are pending.” According to CNN, “There is no publicly available data for the number of sexual assaults by Uber drivers or for drivers of other rideshare companies.”
Shortly after that report, Lyft announced it “will no longer force victims of sexual assault into arbitration,” according to CNN.