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A former Uber driver in Central California was reportedly found guilty of sexually assaulting and stealing from five passengers. The jurors took less than three hours to convict Alfonso Alarcon Nunez of 13 felonies, including three charges of rape. When he is sentenced in Apr., he could face life in prison.
Nunez was accused of sexually assaulting and stealing from intoxicated women who had ordered rides or whom he had picked up in 2017 and 2018 in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. Prosecutors said he would drive the women to their homes, follow them inside, sexually assault them, steal their wallets, cellphones and jewelry, and in some cases, would debit their Venmo accounts for the fares to conceal his Uber connection.
Nunez is at least the third rideshare driver convicted of sexually assaulting passengers in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
Earlier this month, Uber and Lyft teamed up to create a database of drivers ousted from their services for complaints about sexual assault and other crimes that have raised passenger-safety concerns for years. The database will initially list drivers expelled by the ride-hailing rivals in the U.S., but it will also be open to other companies that deploy workers to perform services like grocery and food delivery from restaurants.
Dubbed the “sharing safety program,” it follows through on a promise that Uber made 15 months ago when it revealed that more than 3,000 sexual assaults had been reported on its service in the U.S. during 2018. Back in Dec. 2020, The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) fined Uber and threatened to suspend their license to operate in the state after the company refused to share detailed information on sexual assault and harassment claims reported on its ride-hailing platform. The company refused to share the information, including full names and contact information, arguing that doing so would violate victims’ rights to privacy. The CPUC had ruled that Uber had 30 days until Jan. 2021 to comply. That same month, Uber appealed the $59 million fine.
It was reported that “since the revelation” of the sexual assaults reported, Uber and Lyft have been working through antitrust and privacy concerns in order to create a way to flag drivers who have engaged in violent or other bad behavior that culminated in them being kicked off their services.
In order to protect privacy, the database will not share passenger information. What will be shared, though, are the incidents that resulted in a driver’s dismissal, which will be listed in six broad categories: attempted non-consensual sexual penetration; non-consensual touching of a sexual body part; non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part; non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part; non-consensual sexual penetration; and fatal physical assaults.