Union City police arrest Uber driver accused of sexually assaulting ride share passenger

UNION CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Police in Union City announced the arrest of an Uber driver who is charged with sexually assaulting a young woman last month.

"He drove up and she got in the vehicle believing it was her Uber," explained Lieutenant Steven Mendez, with Union City Police Department. While the man was an Uber driver, it was not the Uber the woman or her friends had ordered.

Mendez says in the early morning hours of July 14, a young woman got in the car of an Uber driver, who was off work. "She had been drinking, but was aware enough that she knew she had been sexually assaulted."
Police say that man, 30-year-old Kevin Barillas-Saballos, drove the woman from San Francisco to her home in Union City, where he sexually assaulted her.

RELATED: San Mateo police investigating report of sexual assault involving rideshare passenger

He was arrested Tuesday at his place of employment in South San Francisco without incident. Barillas-Saballos was arraigned Thursday and charged with false imprisonment, kidnapping, sexual assault, sexual battery and criminal threats. Police are looking for any other possible victims.

An Uber spokesman told ABC7 News that Barillas-Saballos had been driving with Uber since early 2018 and did not have any complaints while working for the company.

Uber released a statement that says, "What police describe is disturbing. We took immediate action and removed this driver from the app as soon as we learned about this incident and will continue to work with police." An Uber spokesman told ABC7 over the phone that "we can't prevent everything from happening" and "people need to know how to protect themselves."

Uber says it is important for riders to make sure the car you get into matches the information that shows up in the Uber app, specifically the license plate, the car make and model and the driver's name. Uber says riders can ask their driver, "Who are you here for?" and if the driver can't identify your name, don't get in the car. The driver will always have the rider's name in their app.

RELATED: How the accused 'Rideshare Rapist' may have beaten the system to become a driver

On Tuesday night in San Mateo, another woman was sexually assaulted by a man who police say was pretending to be a ride share driver. He picked the victim up near Highway 92 in a grey four-door sedan. She later escaped. Even though the attacker does not drive for Uber or Lyft, the incident again highlights the need for people using ride share services to be vigilant.
"Be aware, be alert," says Erin Vomocil who frequently uses ride shares in San Francisco and says she and her friends have a safety system in place. "Always use the buddy system, make sure that your friends are with you, that you're getting you in the right car, if you're not aware and make sure that you're checking the license plate number, who the drivers name is, is this for Erin, is this for Karen."

"Don't get into a car with a stranger that you don't know, so here we are in a society now that's making it very easy to take a Lyft or an Uber," said Sandhya Mysoor who teaches self defense and says Uber and Lyft should have a more robust screening process for their drivers. "People are getting assaulted and they need to vet these people."

Lt. Mendez recommends people carry personal safety devices, like handheld alarms and pepper spray.

To get safety tips from Uber's official blog, visit this page.

For more stories, photos, and video on Uber, visit this page.
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