SAN FRANCISCO (AP) –A suspected serial rapist charged with posing as a Northern California ride-hailing driver to prey on his victims was living in the country illegally, federal immigration authorities said Tuesday.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency said it plans to deport Orlando Vilchez Lazo, 36, to his native Peru if he’s released from custody on the rape case.
ICE said it formally asked the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department on Friday to detain Vilchez Lazo for federal immigration custody if he’s ordered released from jail.
But officials said they believe the request will be ignored because San Francisco’s so-called sanctuary city policy bars local authorities from cooperating with most deportation efforts.
ICE officials criticized the San Francisco’s immigration policy, which has also been adopted in scores of cities and counties across the nation. The policy “not only provides a refuge for illegal aliens, but it also shields criminal aliens who prey on people in the community,” ICE spokesman Richard Rocha said.
The suspect appeared in court for his arraignment on Tuesday. He is facing 12 felonies, including the rapes of four women, kidnapping three of them, and threatening three of them with a deadly weapon.
“At this time the defendant is looking at life in prison, given the charges,” said Alex Bastian, a spokesperson for the San Francisco District Attorney.
Bail for Vilchez Lazo was initially set at $4,234,000. However, Judge Braden Woods on Tuesday ordered that Vilchez Lazo be held without bail.
Vilchez Lazo did not enter a plea and his arraignment was postponed to Thursday.
The first attack happened in 2013. Police took forensic evidence from the victim, entering that evidence into a DNA database.
The second attack happened in February of this year and the DNA from that assault was a match with the 2013 attack.
The third assault was in May. Again, DNA samples in that attack matched the suspect.
That was when the SFPD created a task force and started calling the suspect “the Rideshare Rapist.”
In June, there was a fourth assault.
On July 7, undercover officers working in SOMA noticed someone they said matched the description of the suspect.
The officers conducted a traffic stop and arrested him when his DNA matched the evidence from the earlier assaults.
There are concerns Vilchez Lazo could be involved in additional sexual assaults.
“There’s a long time between 2013 and 2018. It’s very hard to believe he wasn’t committing sexual assaults somewhere else,” said Bastian.
President Donald Trump made opposition to sanctuary city laws one of his main campaign themes. Trump took particular aim at San Francisco’s policy after a man federal authorities say was living in the country illegally was charged with shooting to death Kate Steinle in July 2015.
The San Francisco sheriff’s department ignored an ICE request to detain Jose Ines Garcia Zarate after local marijuana charges were dropped several weeks before Steinle was shot while walking on a popular pedestrian pier with her father.
A jury acquitted Garcia Zarate of murder and homicide charges after he said the gun that killed Steinle accidentally fired when he found it underneath the pier bench he was sitting on.
Garcia Zarate is now in federal custody after the U.S. Attorney’s office charged him with two illegal gun possession charges.
He has pleaded not guilty and faces trial later this year.
Police said Vilchez Lazo prowled for victims outside of bars late at night with Uber and Lyft stickers on his car. He picked up women who thought he was a driver responding to their request for a ride.
Uber said Vilchez Lazo did not drive for the platform.
Lyft admitted that he did drive for them after lying on his application about his immigration status. The company issued a statement that read in part, “We have confirmed that this person did drive for Lyft in the past, but as soon as we were made aware of these horrific and deeply disturbing allegations, we immediately deactivated him.”
Lyft and Uber have resisted proposals to make them fingerprint their drivers like taxi companies do in order to do more accurate background checks.
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.
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