Uber Driver Arrested on Suspicion of Sexually Assaulting Passenger in Santa Ana; Police Look for More Victims

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An Uber driver was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting a female passenger who had fallen asleep in his van, officials said Sunday.

Angel Sanchez is seen in a photo released by the Santa Ana Police Department on April 2, 2017.

The incident occurred on Thursday, when the victim's friends helped her request a ride from a company gathering to her Santa Ana home because she was intoxicated, according to Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

"They did all the right things, she did all the right things," Bertagna told KTLA. "Unfortunately she came across a sexual predator."

The suspect, Angel Sanchez, 37, picked up the woman in a Toyota Sienna in Huntington Beach, police said. During the ride the victim fell asleep, and when she woke up she was being sexually assaulted in the back seat of the van on a street near her home, according to Bertagna.

"She fought him off, she broke free (and) she immediately called us," he said. "By the time we got to the location, obviously he was gone."

Officers worked with Uber to determine who the driver was and on Saturday detained Sanchez at his Costa Mesa home. Based on incriminating statements the suspect made to detectives and physical evidence, he was arrested on suspicion of various sexual assault crimes and booked on $100,000 bond, Bertagna said.

Police are releasing Sanchez's photo because they do not believe this is his first offense due to the violent nature of the crime.

"This was more than likely not the first time he’s done it, whether he’s done it as an Uber driver or in his personal life," Bertagna said. "You don’t just start out by violently sexually assaulting females while they’re passed out — you work your way up to that."

Sanchez has been working as an Uber driver for about a year, officials said, and Santa Ana police are working with Uber and other local agencies to determine which cities he worked in.

Anyone who has seen Sanchez “commit inappropriate or aggressive behavior” is asked to call 714-245-8412.

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