A former Uber driver from Santa Maria was sentenced Monday to more than a half-century in prison after he was found guilty of 13 felonies, including three counts of rape, for sexually assaulting and stealing from five women across the Central Coast in 2018.
It took jurors just three hours to find Alfonso Alarcon Nunez guilty of all charges against him — including multiple counts of rape, assault with intent to commit rape, oral copulation, first-degree burglary and entering a property with the intent to commit theft or another felony — during a two-week trial in San Luis Obispo Superior Court.
At his sentencing on Monday, two of Alarcon Nunez’s five victims presented victim-impact statements that were read to the court by Deputy District Attorney Melissa Chabra, who prosecuted the case.
Those women shared their stories of how the crimes have plagued their lives, forcing them to move from the area and seek treatment for long-lasting trauma. (The Tribune is not naming any victims in the case.)
A third woman read her statement in court, sitting just feet away from the defendant who sat with his fingers crossed and showed only minimal, if any, emotion.
“There are no words, yet here I am trying my best,” the woman said confidently in court. “I’m giving it my all to use my words so that non-survivors can have an idea of the suffering that I have lived with and will continue to live with for the rest of my life.”
She added: “I’ll never be able to live the life I wanted. I’ll always live the life of a survivor.”
Alarcon Nunez, who was listening to the proceedings with the help of an interpreter, did not make any statements.
Superior Court Judge Craig van Rooyen, who presided over the trial, sentenced Alarcon Nunez to 46 years to life in prison, plus an additional eight years and eight months, which must be served first.
According to the District Attorney’s Office, he must serve all 54 years and 8 months.
Should he be released from prison, Alarcon Nunez, 40, would be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Van Rooyen said during the hearing, which was being broadcast to other victims not in the courtroom, that Alarcon Nunez exploited a position of trust to commit violent crimes against “particularly vulnerable” women.
The judge made it clear that the victims in the case are not to blame for Alarcon Nunez’s conduct.
“I want you to know that I heard you, and the jury heard you, and that this was not your fault,” van Rooyen said.
The criminal case was the last of three involving Central Coast ride share service drivers who committed sex offenses against female riders to make its way through the courts.
Following Monday’s hearing Alarcon Nunez will remain in County Jail pending transfer to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials.
Alarcon Nunez was accused of committing and attempting to commit dozens of crimes against women who used the ride share service between July 2017 and his arrest in January 2018.
During the trial, Chabra alleged that Alarcon Nunez preyed on intoxicated women who either ordered a ride from Uber or were otherwise intercepted by Alarcon Nunez as he drove for the company throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
After intercepting other ride requests or accepting rides legitimately, Chabra said, Alarcon Nunez would follow the intoxicated victims into their homes, sexually assault them, steal their wallets and electronics, and in some cases debit victims’ accounts on Venmo, a payment phone app separate from Uber.
Jurors heard testimony from the five alleged victims in the case, as well as other women who told jurors of incidents in which they refused ride offers from Alarcon Nunez and/or had property stolen from him.
One of the women testified that she and another of the victims were given a ride after becoming intoxicated — and possibly drugged, unrelated to Alarcon Nunez — at the former SLO Brew bar and concert venue in downtown San Luis Obispo in January 2018. At the time, the 19-year-old woman had worked at SLO Brew for approximately six months.
After drinking a “foggy” beer at the venue, the woman testified that she next remembers being dropped off by an Uber driver with the second victim at the victim’s Mustang Village apartment and feeling like she had gotten sick.
She testified she remembers waking up the next morning on her friend’s couch “feeling sicker than I ever felt before” and sore, with her underwear out of place and her clothes, cell phone and wallet missing.
After having a sexual assault forensic exam and being interviewed by police, the victims received Facebook messages from a “Bruno Diaz” asking how they were and referencing the previous night, claiming that he had sex with one of the women.
Ultimately, investigation in that case and another rape led officials to identify Alarcon Nunez, and evidence collected including videos, images, social media activity, Venmo transactions and stolen property linked the Santa Maria man to two other women who were victimized but had not come forward.
One of the women was not even aware Alarcon Nunez had sexually assaulted her when contacted by investigators who saw the woman photographed in the back seat of Alarcon Nunez’s car, in footage stored on Alarcon Nunez’s phone, according to testimony.
Earl Conaway, Alarcon Nunez’s defense attorney, had argued to the jury that his client admits stealing items and overcharging his ride customers, including victims in this case, but he denied sexually assaulting anyone.
Conaway argued that at least one of the alleged assaults was a consensual act, and that Alarcon Nunez was essentially cruising for consensual dates following the end of a long-term romantic relationship.
“He is a thief,” the attorney said. “That does not mean he’s a rapist.”
The Alarcon Nunez case is at least the third involving allegations of sexual assault against a ride share service driver in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
Shadi Abdul Aziz, a former Uber driver in Santa Maria, pleaded guilty to rape in October 2019.
In January 2020, Jason Fenwick, a former driver for the service Lyft, was sentenced to 10 years in state prison for sexually assaulting a customer he had picked up from the scene of her boyfriend’s DUI arrest in Nipomo.
Matt Fountain is a reporte for the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.