A man who allegedly pretended to be a rideshare driver before sexually assaulting women was arrested earlier this month, after an extensive investigation. San Mateo resident Orlando Vilchez Lazo, 37, was taken into custody July 12.
The first recorded assault took place five years ago.
“In 2013 there was a victim who was picked up at a local bar here in San Francisco believing that she was being picked up by a common rideshare company. But instead of going home safely, the driver took that victim to another location and sexually assaulted her, ” said Commander Greg McEachern at a press conference Friday.
Forensic evidence was gathered from the victim, and entered into the CODIS DNA database, where it sat for years with no match.
But in February of this year, around Valentine’s Day, a second assault took place under similar circumstances, and the DNA was a match with the 2013 incident.
Three months later, in May, a third assault happened, and as soon as the match was again confirmed, SFPD created a task force and christened the suspect the “Rideshare Rapist.”
In June, a fourth assault took place, and the investigation picked up.
“As soon as we had the fourth victim we were concerned for the safety of the public, and we worked day and night,” McEachern said. Officers opened search warrants, conducted undercover investigations, and “followed every lead we could as far as we could imagine,” ranging all the way to San Jose.
In the end, it was “good old-fashioned police work” that cracked the case. On July 7, several undercover officers working in SoMa noticed someone whose behavior matched the description of the suspect. They conducted a traffic stop, pulled the driver’s DNA, and got a match.
Lazo has been charged with false imprisonment, kidnapping, assault with attempt to commit rape, sexual assault with a foreign object, rape, and intent to commit rape. His bail is set at $4 million.
SFPD is investigating whether Lazo had at any point been employed as a rideshare driver.
“It’s important for the community to know that even though we have made an arrest in this horrific crime, we believe there may be other victims that may be out there or other witnesses that may come forward,” McEachern said. “These assaults were not date rapes. They were not acquaintance rapes. These assaults were violent rapes committed by a serial rapist, a sexual deviant predator who was not going to stop until he was caught.”