A Florida man posing as a rideshare driver was arrested on Wednesday for sexual assault, alleging he picked up a woman at Miami International Airport last month and raped her, authorities said.
Fernando Avila Hernandez, 28, of Miami, was listed as an inmate Thursday in Broward County Jail where he was being held on two counts of sexual assault on a victim 18 or older and one count of charge of touching or striking, according to prison records. Bail on the charges was $135,000, records show.
A spokesperson for the Broward State Attorney’s Office said Avila Hernandez made his first court appearance on Thursday and a judge ordered that if he posted bail, he could have no contact. with the victim and would be placed on a GPS monitoring device.
Avila Hernandez’s attorney, Bijan Sebastian Parwaresch, said Thursday that his client was innocent: “We strongly oppose the notion of non-consensual sex.”
Avila Hernandez could post bond later Thursday, Parwaresch said.
NBC Miami reported that Avila Hernandez picked up a 28-year-old woman who had arrived at the airport from Salt Lake City. The woman was attempting to hail a cab when she was approached by Avila Hernandez, who was soliciting passengers as a rideshare driver, according to an affidavit.
The woman, originally from Colombia, got into the back of Avila Hernandez’s SUV and said she needed to be taken to a hotel in Miramar, according to the affidavit.
At one point, Avila Hernandez asked her to sit in the front to help her orient herself, according to the affidavit.
“She said she didn’t think anything of it because, since Uber is not officially authorized in Colombia, Uber drivers make their passengers sit in the front so as not to alert the authorities”, indicates the affidavit.
As they arrived at the hotel, Avila Hernandez demanded payment and the woman offered to pay with a credit card, but he told her he only took cash, according to the affidavit. .
Avila Hernandez offered to pay him $500 for sex, but she told him she was not a prostitute, according to the affidavit. He then told her the ride would cost $300, but she said she didn’t have that much money, according to the affidavit.
He then drove past the hotel and into a mall where he parked behind a restaurant and sexually assaulted her, according to the affidavit.
He then drove her to a hotel and left, and the woman reported the alleged incident to hotel staff who called police, NBC Miami reported.
The alleged sexual assault took place on March 29, CBS Miami reported.
Detectives recovered the airport surveillance video, according to NBC Miami. Surveillance was also gathered from the location where the suspected battery occurred and from the hotel. A detective recognized the suspect in the video as Avila Hernandez, who was arrested in a separate incident, according to the affidavit.
The victim then identified Avila Hernandez in a police queue, and he was also on a list of people who solicit customers by posing as Uber drivers and taxi drivers at the airport, according to the affidavit.
Uber told NBC News on Thursday that Avila Hernandez did not have access to its platform at the time of the incident and had not taken a trip on the app since April 2021. Uber drivers are prohibited from making trips outside the app and the company has reminded passengers to only make trips through the Uber platform.