Uber driver in US illegally charged with 4 California rapes

This undated booking photo provided by the County of San Luis Obispo shows Alfonso Alarcon-Nunez, an Uber driver who has been charged with raping, assaulting and robbing young women. (County of San Luis Obispo via AP)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Uber driver in US illegally charged with 4 California rapes

LOS ANGELES: A Mexican man living in the US illegally used his job as an Uber driver to target intoxicated young women and was charged Monday with raping, assaulting and robbing four victims, California prosecutors said.
Alfonso Alarcon-Nunez drove women to their homes, assaulted them, and stole property including cellphones, computers and jewelry, officials said. He collected his fare payments through the smartphone app Venmo to disguise his identity and his Uber records.
DNA evidence helped lead detectives to Alarcon-Nunez, who was arrested at his Santa Maria home last week, San Luis Obispo County District Attorney Dan Dow said at a news conference.
The alleged crimes occurred over four weeks starting in mid-December in San Luis Obispo, a city of about 45,000 that is home to California Polytechnic State University. Alarcon-Nunez’s victims are between 19 and 22 and three were drunk at the time of the crimes, Dow said.
Alarcon-Nunez, 39, faces 10 criminal charges, including rape of an intoxicated victim and first-degree burglary. It wasn’t immediately known if Alarcon-Nunez has an attorney.
Detectives are looking for potential witnesses and trying to determine if there are additional victims in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties northwest of Los Angeles, where the Alarcon-Nunez had been driving for Uber since September, Dow said.
Alarcon-Nunez has also gone by the name “Bruno Diaz” and his Venmo username was “Brush Bat,” prosecutors said.
Officials said Alarcon-Nunez was not always driving for Uber when he picked up women. Sometimes, drivers in cars parked outside bars or restaurants “jump in front of the actual Uber driver and they will take someone unsuspecting to their home. And that’s a way of putting someone at risk, and in this case that’s exactly what’s alleged to have happened,” Dow said.
He said the alleged crimes show that the company should improve its driver screening process, Dow said. Dow urged Uber users to make sure they are getting in the car of the correct driver by verifying the license plate and other information provided to clients.
Uber spokesman Michael Amodeo did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Alarcon-Nunez returned to the US illegally after a voluntary deportation from New Mexico in 2005, officials said. Dow did not have details about why he was deported or whether he has a criminal record in the US
California issues driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally and Alarcon-Nunez had a valid license since 2015.
Alarcon-Nunez’s immigration status will not have a bearing on the prosecution, Dow said. He could face life in prison if convicted on all charges.


24 bodies retrieved from flooded Zimbabwe gold mine: report

A rescued artisanal miner is carried from a pit as retrieval efforts proceed for trapped illegal gold miners in Kadoma, Zimbabwe, February 16, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 17 February 2019
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24 bodies retrieved from flooded Zimbabwe gold mine: report

  • Formal unemployment is estimated at over 90 percent and artisanal gold mining, mostly in mines long abandoned by big corporates, is widespread providing a source of income for many

HARARE: Rescue workers retrieved 24 bodies and eight survivors Saturday from two flooded gold mines in Zimbabwe where officials fear dozens more illegal miners are still trapped, state television reported.
“Eight of the trapped minors have been rescued ... while 24 bodies have been retrieved to date as rescue efforts continue at Battlefields Mine,” the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The two disused mines are situated near the town of Kadoma, 145 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of the capital Harare.
The rescued received medical attention on site before being take to hospital, but were in a stable condition, the report added.
Television footage showed some of the men, in soaked, muddy clothes, being helped to a makeshift clinic.
In a clip posted on Twitter, one survivor told journalists that the waters had risen to neck level, forcing them to stand for days until it receded.
On Friday the government said that between 60 and 70 “artisanal” miners were trapped in two shafts.
It launched an appeal for $200,000 to be used “to pump out water, feeding the bereaved families and the (rescue) teams on the ground, transportation and burial of the victims,” local minister July Moyo said in a statement.
“Given the magnitude of this disaster, we kindly appeal to individuals, development partners and the corporate world for assistance in cash and kind,” he said.
Zimbabwe is in the throes of a deep economic crisis, the worst in a decade.
Annual inflation shot to 56.90 percent up from 42.09 percent in December 2018, according to official statistics released Friday, the highest increase in a decade. Economists say in reality prices have gone up more than three fold in recent months.
Formal unemployment is estimated at over 90 percent and artisanal gold mining, mostly in mines long abandoned by big corporates, is widespread providing a source of income for many.
Artisanal mining is not banned outright in Zimbabwe, and is largely unregulated.