A Florida man posing as a ride-share driver was arrested Wednesday on sexual battery charges 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 the Broward County Jail, where he was being held on two counts of sexual battery on a victim 18 years or older and one count of touch or strike battery, according to jail records. Bond on the charges totaled $135,000, records said.
A spokesperson with the Broward County State Attorney’s Office said Avila Hernandez made his initial appearance in court Thursday and that a judge ordered that if he posts bail, he can’t have any contact with the victim and will be fixed with a GPS monitoring device.
Avila Hernandez's lawyer, Bijan Sebastian Parwaresch, said Thursday his client is innocent: "We're highly objecting to the notion of an unconsensual sexual encounter."
Avila Hernandez might post bond later Thursday, Parwaresch said.
NBC Miami reported Avila Hernandez picked up a 28-year-old woman who had arrived at the airport from Salt Lake City. The woman was trying to hail a taxi when she was approached by Avila Hernandez, who was soliciting passengers as a ride-share driver, according to an affidavit.
The woman, who is originally from Colombia, got into the back of Avila Hernandez’s SUV and said she needed a ride to a hotel in Miramar, the affidavit says.
At one point, Avila Hernandez asked her to get in the front seat to help with directions, the affidavit says.
“She stated she did not think anything of it because since Uber is not officially allowed in Colombia, Uber drivers sit their passengers in the front so as to not alert authorities,” the affidavit said.
As they were arriving at the hotel, Avila Hernandez asked for payment and the woman offered to pay with a credit card, but he told her he takes only cash, the affidavit says.
Avila Hernandez offered to pay her $500 for sex, but she told him she is not a prostitute, the affidavit says. He then told her the ride would cost $300, but she said she didn’t have that much money, the affidavit says.
He then drove past the hotel and went to a shopping plaza, where he parked behind a restaurant and sexually assaulted her, the affidavit says.
Afterward, he drove her to a hotel and left, and the woman reported the incident to hotel staff members, who called police, NBC Miami reported.
The alleged sexual assault occurred March 29, WFOR-TV of Miami reported.
Detectives retrieved security video from the airport, according to NBC Miami. Video was also collected from where the alleged battery happened and the hotel. A detective recognized the suspect in the video as Avila Hernandez, who had been arrested in a separate incident, the affidavit says.
The victim identified Avila Hernandez in a police lineup, and he was also on a list of people who solicit customers by posing as Uber drivers and taxi drivers at the airport, the affidavit says.
Uber said 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 taking off-app trips, and the company reminded passengers to take trips only through the Uber platform.