More than a year after a woman alleged she was groped by an Uber driver during a late-night ride, charges have been filed against a 36-year-old man who prosecutors say has a history of engaging in “sexually inappropriate behavior” with riders.
The driver, Sargon Nano, faces a felony count of criminal sexual abuse and a misdemeanor count of battery in connection with the incident on Sept. 1, 2018.
A spokeswoman for Uber said the company banned Nano’s access to the Uber app after receiving a complaint from the woman and that he had not taken a trip with Uber since.
But prosecutors said it wasn’t the first time riders had complained about Nano’s behavior.
A review of Nano’s Uber records by authorities revealed “multiple prior complaints had been made against him by other customers for sexually inappropriate behavior,” Assistant State’s Attorney Lorin Jenkins said in court Thursday.
A Chicago police source familiar with the case said Nano had received several complaints from riders last year that were reported to Uber.
A spokeswoman for Uber did not respond Thursday to a request for more information about the complaints, but said the company takes rider reports seriously and investigates the complaints, including by contacting the driver and customer.
Prosecutors said the 29-year-old woman was out with her sister when she requested a ride through the Uber app about 11:30 p.m. and they were picked up by Nano in a 2018 Dodge Journey.
Nano dropped off the woman’s sister at her apartment in Old Town and then began to take the 29-year-old woman to her home on the West Side, prosecutors said. The woman was confused when Nano began asking her for directions and asked him why the Uber app he was using didn’t show them.
Nano told her he had shut off the app and had decided to give her the ride for free, prosecutors said.
Nano pulled over and insisted that the woman get into the front passenger seat, telling her he would not driver her any farther unless she agreed, prosecutors said. When the woman got into the front seat, Nano allegedly began trying to hold her hand as he continued to drive. Shortly after, prosecutors said, he pulled over again, grabbed her arm and kissed her and began to fondle her.
The woman told Nano to stop, and said she did not get out of the SUV because she was unfamiliar with the neighborhood and was concerned about what Nano would do to her if she left the vehicle, prosecutors said.
She was able to convince Nano to begin driving again, but shortly after he pulled over and kissed her again, prosecutors said. He placed her hand on his groin and asked her if she wanted to “have fun with this,” prosecutors said.
Again the woman told him to stop. He took her phone from her, put in his contact information and then sent himself a text message, prosecutors said. When the woman recognized her neighborhood, she got out of the car and walked home.
On the walk, she called her mother and immediately told her what happened, prosecutors said. When she got back to her house she also told her boyfriend and then filed a police report and a report with Uber. Photographs were taken of bruises on her arms she received when Nano grabbed her, prosecutors said.
“What has been described is horrible,” Uber said in a statement.
Nano, who lives in West Rogers Park, was taken into custody after turning himself in on Wednesday and was identified by the woman in a lineup, according to court records.
Records obtained by investigators through a search warrant determined the phone number Nano put into the woman’s phone was registered to him, as was a 2018 Dodge Journey. Additional records obtained by detectives through Uber confirmed the woman’s account of pick up and drop off locations, as well as that Nano “went offline from the app for a period of time” during the ride, prosecutors said.
An assistant public defender for Nano said he had never been arrested before. Judge Charles Beach II agreed with Nano’s lawyer’s request to set bond at $2,000, but also ordered Nano to submit to electronic monitoring and told Nano he could not work for a ride-sharing service or as a taxi driver while the case continues.
Nano’s next hearing was set for Oct. 3.