On May 13, C.O. Pichinte posed as an Uber driver when he picked up a female waiting by the side of the road in West Hollywood. After a short jaunt into Beverly Hills, the suspect pulled the vehicle over and allegedly sexually assaulted the female victim. One week later, Pichinte was arrested during a motor vehicle stop.
According to police, Pichinte’s vehicle was adorned with decals indicating he drove for both Uber and Lyft, though statements from the ride-sharing companies say the suspect was not working for either of them. After his arrest, Pichinte was charged with several crimes including rape and kidnapping. He is currently being held at Men’s Central Jail in lieu of $1.3 million dollars bail.
This isn’t the first time someone working or posing as a driver sexually assaulted someone. Just this past June, a driver was arrested for picking up a drunk woman in Los Angeles and sexually assaulting her at a North Hollywood Hotel.
Despite the arrests, ride-hailing apps are generally safe. When used, both apps provide would-be riders with a picture of their driver, the kind of car they’re driving and their license plate number. Before getting into anyone’s vehicle, it’s important to first verify that they are in fact the person you’re waiting for. For added security, it can also be beneficial to share rides with friends – particularly when returning home late at night. Would-be predators are far less likely to attempt anything if there are more than one person in the vehicle.
Investigators working out of the Beverly Hills Police Station believe that Pichinte could be involved in additional sexual assaults that had taken place in the area this year. They have contacted neighboring agencies and are actively searching for additional victims. If convicted, Pichinte faces several years in prison for his crimes.