SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - A man accused of pretending to be a ride-hailing service driver in order to lure women and sexually assault them made his first appearance in San Francisco courtroom this afternoon.
Orlando Vilchez Lazo, 37, is being charged with four counts of rape, three counts of kidnapping, three counts of kidnapping to commit another crime, and two counts of sexual penetration with a foreign object, force and violence, according to court records.
Bail for Vilchez Lazo was initially set at $4,234,000, however, Judge Braden Woods today ordered that Vilchez Lazo be held without bail. Vilchez Lazo did not enter a plea and his arraignment was postponed to Thursday.
The Public Defenders Office is representing Vilchez Lazo. Police have dubbed him as the "Rideshare Rapist."
Officers arrested Vilchez Lazo on July 12 in San Mateo County after they confirmed that he was linked by DNA evidence to four separate sexual assaults in the San Francisco, one in 2013 and three others this year.
"There was a task force assembled between the Police Department and the District Attorney's Office. There was good police work done and we were able to identify, arrest and charge someone with multiple rape counts,"
Alex Bastian, spokesman with the District Attorney's Office said. "This is someone who has no criminal history, so if anyone has information about this case, we ask that you contact the Police Department or our office. The case remains under investigation."
According to police, Vilchez Lazo posed as the driver of a ride-hailing service, hanging around downtown San Francisco nightclubs, seeking female victims.
The first alleged assault occurred in November 2013 when a woman leaving a bar got into Vilchez Lazo's vehicle, mistaking him for her driver. Vilchez Lazo then took the woman to another location and raped her, police said.
The victim immediately reported the alleged sexual assault and police were able to obtain forensic evidence. The evidence was put into CODICE, a criminal database, but no matches came up at the time and the case went cold.
However, earlier this year, in February, a similar sexual assault allegedly occurred and from that, investigators again obtained forensic evidence.
Once entered into the CODICE system, the evidence matched-up with the evidence from the 2013 sexual assault.
In May, a third sexual assault allegedly occurred in a similar manner.
The forensic evidence from that third assault matched the evidence from the two previous assaults, according to police.
Officers then assembled a task force in order to identify and apprehend the suspect.
Shortly after, however, in June, a fourth sexual assault allegedly occurred involving a man posing as ride-hailing driver. The forensic evidence from that incident once again matched the evidence from the now three other previous assaults.
Soon after, the task force followed numerous leads to track the suspect down.
On July 7, undercover officers in the city's South of Market neighborhood observed suspicious behavior from a driver operating what appeared to be a ride-hailing vehicle. Officers stopped the vehicle and
identified the driver as Vilchez Lazo and took a DNA sample for analysis and comparison.
Last week, investigators were able to confirm that Vilchez Lazo's DNA matched the forensic evidence from the four alleged sexual assaults and moved to arrest him.
Investigators are trying to determine whether Vilchez Lazo had ever legitimately worked for a ride-hailing service company.
Also, because of the gap between the 2013 assault and the three others this year, police believe there may be more victims.
Anyone who may be a victim by Vilchez Lazo or who may have witnessed one of the alleged sexual assaults is asked to contact the Police Department's special victims unit at (415) 553-1521 or the 24-hour tipline at (415) 575-4444 or text a tip to TIP411 with "SFPD" at the beginning of the message.