An Uber driver is accused of sexually assaulting a woman passenger while giving her a ride over the weekend amid the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Boston.
Boston police responded to a call early Sunday morning about a woman who appeared to be in distress and possibly a victim of sexual assault, according to a statement from the Boston Police Department. A spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office said the passenger had been discovered after a car was stopped in the city’s South End by officers with the Northeastern University Police Department.
The driver, identified by authorities as 26-year-old Ranjan Thapa, was arrested on a charge of rape, police said.
At his arraignment Monday, Thapa’s bail was set at $10,000 and he was ordered to surrender his passport. He was also prohibited from contacting the victim, according to the district attorney’s office.
His defense attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.
An Uber spokeswoman said Monday the company is cooperating with police during an investigation.
“What police describe is deeply troubling,” Uber said in a statement to The Washington Post. “The driver has been removed from the app, and we stand ready to assist the Boston Police Department with their investigation.”
The incident unfolded in the early morning hours Sunday when two patrol officers with the Northeastern University Police Department noticed “some suspicious activity in a parked car” in the South End neighborhood, John O’Neill, a spokesman for Northeastern University, said in a statement.
“Upon further investigation, they determined that a sexual assault may have taken place and they contacted Boston Police,” O’Neill wrote in an email to The Post.
Boston police said in a statement that officers responded about 1 a.m. to the scene on Hemenway Street.
When the responding officers arrived, they spoke with Northeastern University police officers who advised them they had stopped a man who claimed to be a ride-share operator “tasked with transporting a female passenger to her home,” Boston police said in the statement. The statement added that the “observations made by the officers on the scene led them to believe that the female passenger, not only appeared to be in distress, but may have been the victim of a sexual assault.”
The passenger was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, according to the Boston Police Department.
During an investigation by the Boston Police Sexual Assault Unit, detectives established probable cause to charge Thapa with rape, according to prosecutors and police.
Uber explicitly prohibits sexual language or gestures as well as sexual contact between drivers and riders.
Any behavior involving violence, sexual misconduct, harassment, discrimination, or illegal activity while using Uber can result in the immediate loss of access to your account. Additionally, when law enforcement is involved, we will cooperate with their investigation in accordance with our Law Enforcement Guidelines.
Following news about the allegations against Thapa, his brother-in-law, Rabindra Lamichhane, told CBS affiliate WBZ Thapa is “a regular guy, he’s a hard-working guy,” working two jobs and attending classes at University of Massachusetts Boston.
“We couldn’t sleep the whole night,” Lamichhane told the station following the accusations. “It’s terrible.”
DeWayne Lehman, a spokesman for the University of Massachusetts Boston, confirmed to The Washington Post that Thapa has been enrolled as a student since 2015. He said in a statement university officials are aware of “these very serious allegations” and are taking “appropriate next steps” in response to the situation, though he did not elaborate.
Thapa is due back in court April 17.