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Arizona Lyft driver charged with kidnapping, sexually assaulting passenger

Posted at 6:05 AM, Jun 27, 2019

MARICOPA, Ariz. — A rideshare driver has been arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a passenger after dropping her off at her Maricopa home early Sunday morning.

The Maricopa Police Department says Rayan Jarjes picked the victim up at a friend's house around 3:15 a.m. local time to take her house located about nine miles away. However, the ride lasted thirty minutes and included two stops.

During the ride, police say Jarjes talked with the victim about how hard it was to find the right person for a relationship before pulling over at several points in the trip to sexually assault her.

The first time Jarjes stopped the car, the victim told police he "gave her a kiss and bit her lips." The second time she said "he placed her head on his lap" and proceeded to assault her.

The victim told officers she fell asleep in between the stops and "was awakened by the [driver] rubbing on her legs" before forcing more sexual contact.

She also told officers she could not remember where the car stopped. She had been drinking at a local bar earlier in the night. She did make it clear to officers, that she never consented to any physical contact and even resisted at time.

A friend of the victim contacted police shortly after the victim was dropped off. Officers stopped Jarjes' vehicle shortly after that and found him with his zipper undone, according to a probable cause statement.

When interviewed by detectives, police say Jarjes admitted to sexually assaulting the victim. Officers wrote that he initially came up with excuses as to why he stopped multiple times during the trip, why he entered the backseat, why he had pictures of the victim on his phone, and why he ejaculated in the backseat.

In an emailed statement, Lyft said that all drivers undergo a background check. They are currently investigating this alleged assault and working with Maricopa police.

"The allegations described are abhorrent," a company spokesperson said in a statement. "Safety is fundamental to Lyft and we have absolutely no tolerance for this behavior in our community. Upon learning of the incident, we permanently banned the driver and we are actively assisting law enforcement with their investigation."

Jarjes has been charged with kidnapping, sexual assault and sexual abuse. A judge set his bond at $100,000, and he remained at the Pinal County Jail as of Wednesday afternoon.

"It makes a lot of people in the industry look bad," said Robert Gonzales, who has been driving with Lyft and Uber for three years.

Lyft drivers in Arizona say they were angry to hear a passenger was allegedly sexually assaulted by a driver.

"That's why I drive: to get people safely to their destinations. And a lot of these drivers are taking advantage of people when they're unconscious," Gonzales said.

Drivers say driving intoxicated passengers is not out of the ordinary.

"Every weekend I have them pass out in here," Gonzales said. He says if he needs to wake up a passenger, he will turn up the music or call the police to wake them up as opposed to touching them.

Other Lyft drivers stressed that passengers should share their location with a friend — even though Lyft does background checks before hiring drivers, passengers are still getting in a car with a stranger.

"Let a friend know, 'Hey, I am grabbing a Lyft. This is where they're picking me up, this is where they're supposed to drop me off,'" said Alex Estrella, who has driven for Lyft for nearly a year.

Passengers can share their trips, so a friend or family can always know their GPS location.

"I track [my wife] on my phone. I know when the vehicle stops because I got it on GPS," Estrella said.

In the end, police say Jarjes "admitted to several of the allegations." He is now facing years in prison, while his passenger is facing years of recovery.

"She's going to have to live with that for the rest of her life," Gonzales said.

This story was originally published by Zach Crenshaw on KNXV in Phoenix.