Uber driver accused of sexually assaulting woman in Villas after taking her home

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A man was arrested after deputies say he followed a woman home and sexually assaulted her at her Villas apartment after earlier serving as her Uber driver.

Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon to announce the arrest of Felix Torres, 37. According to LCSO, Torres drove the woman home to the Ashlar Apartments, located at 13001 Corbel Circle, from a night out on Sunday. After letting her out of the vehicle, Torres put on a mask, followed her to her door, covered her mouth, and sexually assaulted her.

On Wednesday, Torres faced a judge during a first appearance hearing. Bond was set at $500,000, and if Torres is released, he will have to stay away from the victim’s home.

Torres has a criminal past, according to court proceedings.

“All criminal history is out of the state of Massachusetts, dispositions unknown for all nine-armed masked robbery. Trafficking controlled substance. 2008 armed robbery possession of burglary tools, breaking and entering. 2005, no valid driver’s license, failure to register motor vehicle, tag not assigned. 2004, possession of burglary tools breaking and entering. 2001 Breaking and Entering, destruction of personal property, possession of burglary tools and receiving stolen motor vehicle.”

Surveillance video shows what LCSO says is Torres, masked, running behind the woman to her front door. Marceno says Torres has past felonies and that Uber is wholly to blame.

WINK News reached out to Uber about the incident.

“We are sickened by what the rider reported to police. The driver has been banned from the Uber platform, and we are committed to assisting law enforcement however we can,” Uber said.

In today’s world, ridesharing apps seem like a safe alternative to drinking and driving.

But, former FBI agent and criminal defense attorney, Bob Foley, said taking an Uber or Lyft is not without its own risks.

And what happened on Sunday morning at the Ashlar apartment complex isn’t unique.

“There are a significant number of these cases with Uber and other corporation-type drivers, and sexual assaults. For example, in 2020, Uber had reported over 900 of these types of incidents, 151 or so involved actual rape cases from 2019 to 2020,” Foley said.

“Sometimes the process is only as good as the people who are looking for the positions. While background checks can be profound,” Foley said. “There are many situations where information may not be available. And in those cases, people slip through the cracks.”

James Gardy has been an Uber driver for five years.

He said it took him about two to three days to get approved when he signed up.

“The process, you know, for background checks is very straightforward and also very efficient,” Gardy said.

Gardy also explained that drivers have to be careful.

“Everybody should always be wary, you know, of who gets into your car, or which car you always get into who your driver is,” Gardy said.

Foley noted there will always be risks, but taking extra safety precautions could make all the difference.

“Make sure that somebody knows that you are, in fact, taking a ride service provider and when you expect to be home, such that they are anticipating hearing from you when you get home. Try to get dropped off in a well-lit area. And if you can, most importantly, try to ride share. That certainly would reduce the risk or the potential for harm,” Foley said.

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