FIRST ON FOX — A 20-year-old woman’s life changed forever one December night in 2021, when she was celebrating her birthday in Tampa, Florida.
The Pasco County woman, who had just moved to the area from Wisconsin for college, became intoxicated while celebrating her upcoming 21st birthday and got separated from her friends at Tangra Nightclub downtown. A good Samaritan saw her outside the club and ordered an Uber for her, hoping it would help the woman get home safely.
“The Good Samaritan later told law enforcement that she did not think that JANE DOE was capable of arranging a ride for herself given her condition,” a lawsuit filed against Uber in March states.
What the good Samaritan did not know was that the 42-year-old driver, Anthony Oliveras-Rivera — who was employed by the ride-share app despite having a lengthy criminal history — would pick up the intoxicated woman and allegedly attack her in his vehicle for hours.
Oliveras-Rivera is accused of picking up the victim at 10 p.m., though he did not drop her at the Barrymore hotel downtown, where she was staying with friends, until 2 a.m. The drive from the nightclub to the hotel is typically less than 10 minutes. Uber records show the suspect drove the victim to “Odessa, Florida, where he ‘ended’ the trip in the UBER app,” and allegedly sexually assaulted the victim.
The woman, who was asleep or incapacitated during the assault, “remembers waking up briefly to find the UBER driver in the back seat with her penetrating her vaginally and anally,” the complaint states.
The driver then dropped off the victim, described as a “petite young lady who rarely drank alcohol,” passed out in the back seat of his car with her underwear pulled down to her knees, according to the lawsuit. She could barely walk, had difficulty speaking and had urinated on herself.
The Uber driver allegedly told hotel staff, “I need your help[.] I have a girl passed out in my backseat,” and asked for paper towels.
After security helped transport the victim to a chair inside the hotel, she told staff the Uber driver had assaulted her, and she was transported to a nearby hospital, where medical staff conducted a sexual assault examination and found male DNA. Law enforcement submitted the DNA for testing, which was determined to be a match for Oliveras-Rivera.
Additionally, Oliveras-Rivera apparently admitted to Tampa police that he had sexual Intercourse with his passenger, according to the victim’s attorney, Andrea Lewis.
The suspect is facing three sexual battery charges, and a judge set his bond at $45,000 last year.
Lewis told Fox News Digital that Oliveras-Rivera “may and likely does have” multiple felony offenses out of Puerto Rico “for which he was sentenced to eight years in prison” in the late 1990s, prior to moving to New York, where he was convicted of narcotics possession, robbery and burglary charges in the early 2000s, court records show.
In a 2001 burglary case, Oliveras-Rivera and two other suspects were convicted of pushing two people into an apartment at gunpoint, tying them up on the floor and demanding drugs from a safe.
His other priors include not having a valid driver’s license, speeding, running stop signs and careless driving. He has had his license suspended several times, according to court records and the lawsuit.
“My client was horrified — in shock — when initially learning that the man who was driving for Uber had been convicted of any serious crimes, let alone the armed robbery and other drug crimes that we had previously uncovered out of New York,” Lewis said. “Those fears, and the trauma this case has already inflicted upon her, have been amplified exponentially after learning that.”
“The idea that Uber or any company would knowingly hire an individual with this background is frightening,” she continued. “That is something anyone who utilizes ride-sharing or sharing services, particularly those with Uber, need to take note of.”
It is unclear how Oliveras-Rivera became an Uber driver because the ride-share app disqualifies applicants with criminal records, according to its website. Florida state law also prevents anyone convicted of a felony within the past five years from becoming a driver.
Uber told Fox News Digital it could not comment on pending litigation.
Uber works with Checkr, a third-party background-check provider, and other nationally recognized background check providers, including HireRight, Inc., and Samba Safety, according to the ride-share app.
“Everyone who drives with Uber is screened before their first trip,” Uber’s website states. “In addition, Uber reruns these driver screenings every year and uses technology to look for issues in between. It’s part of our commitment to help keep you safe when you request a ride with Uber.”
The lawsuit states that despite Uber’s commitment to screening its drivers, the company “made the decision to hire convicted felon, ANTHONY OLIVERAS-RIVERA, who had previously been to prison for his involvement in an armed robbery and, after being released from prison, he continued to violate the law and engage in behavior which should have made it obvious to UBER that he posed a risk to passengers,” such as the victim in this case.
Oliveras-Rivera’s next trial date is set for Aug. 29.