SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - The Santa Maria Uber driver arrested last week on charges of sexual assault and burglary pleaded not guilty today in a San Luis Obispo courtroom.
Bail was set at $1,470,000. Alarcon-Nunez will return to court for a pre-preliminary hearing on Monday, Jan. 29.
Alfonso Alarcon-Nunez is charged with 10 felonies stemming from an investigation that began on Dec. 18 in San Luis Obispo.
The 39-year-old is accused of various charges including forcible rape, rape on an intoxicated victim, oral copulation of an intoxicated victim, first-degree burglary and grand theft.
At Monday's press conference, District Attorney Dan Dow said the suspect is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who was voluntarily deported from New Mexico in 2005.
"Like anyone charged with a crime here in the United States he is entitled to the same protections of our Constitution as anyone else that has been charged with a crime, so he is indeed considered to be innocent until a court of law has deemed that he is convicted and guilty of the crimes he has now been charged with," said Dow.
Dow said he had been working as an Uber driver in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties for several months.
He added there is evidence that leads investigators to believe there are more victims in the case.
"We know there are additional victims," said Dow. "We don't have their identities right now, so we're combing our evidence for clues, but we're relying heavily on the public. Anybody who feels like they've been victimized after a ride with Uber. Anyone who may have ridden with Mr. Alarcon-Nunez would be urged to contact either the San Luis Obispo Police Dept. or call the Crimestoppers line so we can look into every lead."
Uber released the following statement:
“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.” -- Uber Spokesperson
At the press conference, Dow said evidence indicates there are likely other victims in the case. He asked anyone who might have been a victim of the suspect to come forward.
"We know there are additional victims," Dow said. "We don't have their identities right now, so we're combing our evidence for clues, but we're relying heavily on the public. Anybody who feels like they've been victimized after a ride with Uber. Anyone who made have ridden with Mr. Alarcon-Nunez would be urged to contact either the San Luis Obispo Police Dept. or call the Crimestroppers line so we can look into every lead."
Despite the case, law enforcement officials added they believe ridesharing companies such as Uber are safe to use.
"With thousands of rides given monthly, it is overwhelmingly a safe thing to do, but there's nothing wrong with taking that extra little step and making sure that you're safe," said San Luis Obispo police chief Deanna Cantrell.
Dow said he believed this was the first time a violent crime such as rape has ever been charged against a rideshare driver in county history.
Both Dow and Cantrell stressed that despite the safe record with Uber and Lyft, users still need to take precautions before entering the car of a stranger.
"If they're going to be taking an Uber or Lyft or something like that or depending on somebody that they don't know that they do their best to vet that situation for their own safety," Cantrell said.
Anyone who has information on the case, or who might be a victim, is asked to call Crimestoppers at 805-549-7867.