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A man posing as an Uber driver sexually assaulted a woman on a university campus

A woman was allegedly sexually assaulted at American University by a man posing as an Uber driver. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A woman was sexually assaulted by a man posing as an Uber driver Sunday on the campus of American University in Washington, D.C., according to local authorities.

El Honcine Jourhdaly, 36, of Springfield, Virginia, was charged with first-degree sexual abuse and kidnapping.

How it happened

A woman and her male friend saw an Uber sticker in the window of a Honda Civic, and flagged the vehicle down.

They asked the driver to take them back to the American University campus. The driver told the woman to get in the front seat. When they got to their destination, he ordered the male passenger to get out, then sped off with the woman still inside.

Jourhdaly then drove to another area of campus and sexually assaulted the woman between 3:20 and 3:50 a.m. Sunday.

About the driver

Jourhdaly was formerly an Uber driver, but stopped working for the ride-sharing service in 2015, when he was removed as a driver. An Uber spokeswoman would not reveal the reason for his removal to The Washington Post.

How the situation could have been avoided

Real Uber drivers will not pick up riders who flag them down like taxicabs. The only way an Uber driver is supposed to pick a passenger up is when they have been requested to do so through the app.

It’s important to be aware that drivers like Jourhdaly who have quit or been fired from Uber may keep the identifying stickers, and unfortunately, use them to harm unsuspecting passengers.

A serious problem?

Even drivers who pass Uber's background checks may not be safe to ride with, some say. Two women have filed a complaint, seeking class-action status, against the company, claiming that they were assaulted by their drivers and that Uber misrepresents how safe the service is.

"Uber has done everything possible to continue using low-cost, woefully inadequate background checks on drivers and has failed to monitor drivers for any violent or inappropriate conduct after they are hired. Nothing meaningful has been done to make rides safer for passengers — especially women. This is no longer an issue of “rogue” drivers who act unlawfully," the complaint reads.

When the Massachusetts state government reviewed more than 70,000 Uber or Lyft drivers with more stringent background checks, 8,000 of them were banned. 51 of those were sex offenders, and hundreds more had been accused of incidents related to "sex, abuse and exploitation."

Uber has strongly opposed the adoption of more stringent screenings, such as fingerprint background checks. Former CEO Travis Kalanick, who is still on the board of directors, said the company doesn't want people who have been unfairly caught up in the criminal justice system to be unable to work.

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