Uber driver faces rape charge after Kent attack of woman

A Seattle man has been charged with second-degree rape for allegedly attacking a 23-year-old Renton woman in Kent while he worked as an Uber and Lyft driver.

Ismael D. Moussaoui, 28, is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday, Sept. 21, at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, according to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. Moussaoui was booked into the King County jail on Sept. 4 and released Sept. 7 after posting bail, according to jail records. Bail was set at $100,000.

“The defendant used his position as a car service driver to prey on the victim,” wrote Nicole L. Weston, senior deputy prosecuting attorney, in court documents filed Sept. 7. “The defendant carried the victim out of the car almost to the victim’s friend’s home; he then put the victim back in his vehicle and drove off with her.

“The defendant sexually assaulted the victim in the backseat of his car. The victim was able to fight him off and was left on the side of a road screaming and partially clothed.”

Kent Police responded at about 4:48 a.m. on Sept. 4 to a suspicious circumstance at the Kentwood Apartments, 22415 Benson Road SE, where a woman advised officers that an Uber/Lyft driver drove away with her intoxicated friend about 15 minutes earlier, according to charging documents.

Officers began looking in the area for a vehicle described as a dark-colored Toyota Prius. At about 5:58 a.m., police saw a man driving a gray Prius northbound in the 22800 block of Benson Road Southeast. An officer pulled the vehicle over. The driver matched the description given by the 911 caller.

At about 5:05 a.m., 911 operators received a call about a woman yelling in the 10200 block of SE 220th Place. A resident located the woman and when officers arrived they learned the woman was the one driven away by the driver from the Kentwood Apartments. The woman told police the driver had raped her. She also had scratches and bruises on various parts of her body consistent with being in a fight or struggle, according to court papers.

The woman told officers she was extremely intoxicated and woke up to find the driver on top of her in the backseat of the car. She said she told him to stop numerous times before he removed her pants. She eventually punched him and scratched him and they ended up outside the vehicle. The driver got back inside the car and drove away. The woman told police she never consented to intercourse or any type of sexual contact with the man.

The woman at the apartment complex told police that she and her friend while attempting to get a ride home from Seattle’s Capital Hill area discovered their phone apps for Uber/Lyft weren’t working. While they were standing outside, a vehicle with Uber/Lyft logos pulled up, as drivers often frequent the area when bars are closing. The driver asked them if they needed a ride and indicated he would accept cash for payment rather than the credit card account required by the company.

Uber is set up so rides can only be requested through the app and paid for with a credit card that is linked to the rider’s account, according to Uber.

The driver gave the women a ride to Kent. The one woman went inside her residence to get cash to pay for the ride and asked the driver to carry her friend to the apartment, which he started to do before stopping and returning to the car. When the woman came back outside, the vehicle and her friend were gone.

Moussaoui had no prior history of any similar incidents, Kent Police spokeswoman Melanie Robinson said in an email. Robinson said police determined he worked for Uber and Lyft.

Moussaoui told police he engaged in sexual contact with the woman in his car but said it was consensual. He said the woman changed her mind about having sex, yelled for him to stop and then attacked him. He claimed she tried to take his car and that’s how he ended up with scratches.

A spokesperson for San Francisco-based Uber said Moussaoui no longer worked for the company.

“What’s been described by police is terrible and something no one should have to experience,” the spokesperson said in an email. “This driver has been removed from the app and we will work with police to provide any information needed for their investigation.”

Background checks of drivers

Uber performs background checks on drivers before they work for the company.

“All drivers must undergo a screening process before they can use the Uber app, which includes a motor vehicle records check and criminal history check reviewing local, state and national records,” according to Uber. “This review process is completed by a third-party background check service that is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.

“The screening process requires an applicant’s full name, date of birth, Social Security number, driver’s license number, a copy of his or her driver’s license, vehicle registration, vehicle insurance and a valid bank account.

“A Social Security trace is used to identify addresses associated with the potential driver, and then checks the potential driver’s driving and criminal history in a series of national, state and local databases. These include the U.S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website, the PACER database, and several databases used to flag suspected terrorists.”

Rider safety tips

Uber offers rider safety tips on its website at uber.com/info/rider-safety-tips/.

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