A spokeswoman for Uber said the company is fully cooperating with the police investigation of one of its drivers, a Santa Maria man who is suspected by San Luis Obispo police of sexually assaulting intoxicated women and then burglarizing their homes.
“What police have reported is absolutely horrifying, and something no person should ever have to experience. We have been working with law enforcement to provide them with information for their investigation, and the driver has been permanently removed from the app,” spokeswoman Tracey Breeden wrote in an email to the Tribune.
The driver, 39-year-old Alfonso Alarconnunez, is being held at San Luis Obispo County Jail on $200,000 bail, on suspicion of eight charges, including two counts of rape of an unconscious victim and one count of rape of a drugged victim, as well as additional charges of grand theft, burglary and oral copulation of an unconscious victim.
Police allege Alarconnunez targeted intoxicated women leaving parties in the San Luis Obispo area on two dates in December and January, giving them rides home and then sexually assaulting them. The suspect also allegedly stole property from the victims, including jewelry and computers.
To avoid being caught, Alarconnunez collected his ride payments through the Venmo app, police said.
The San Luis Obispo case is not the first in which an Uber driver is accused of sexual assault.
In 2016, an Uber driver named Nimer Abdallah was accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman in a case similar to Alarconnunez’s.
Uber says it has taken steps to address passenger safety, including using GPS technology to track every trip, and providing a real-time ID check feature and a “Share Status” feature where riders can share trip details with loved ones.
The company also said it works closely with law enforcement on investigations and to develop safety tips for riders and drivers.
The company has also faced sexual harassment allegations against members of its leadership group.
Uber’s former CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down in June 2017, after the company came under fire over allegations of a workplace permissive of sexual harassment. That includes a board member joking about sexual harassment and an executive who obtained a rape victim’s medical records and shared them with others.
The company says it is implementing employee training to improve awareness of sexual assault and domestic violence, starting with its executive leadership team.