Anchorage cab driver charged with sexual assault of customer

Casey Grove
Bill Roth / Anchorage Daily News

Anchorage police arrested a cab driver Tuesday accused of raping a passenger earlier this month. The Checker Cab driver, 28-year-old Paul Velasco, was charged with sexually assaulting the woman on May 1.

The 42-year-old woman told detectives she'd been drinking at a house on East Sixth Avenue before her friends called her a taxi, said prosecutor Brittany Dunlop. Velasco arrived and drove the woman to the Boniface Mobile Home Park in East Anchorage, not the Newell Street address where she was staying, and had sex with her in the back seat of the cab, Dunlop said.

"He took her to an area she called 'dark and secluded,' " Dunlop said. "She was drinking pretty heavily and she wasn't from here. She's from a village. And she's since returned to the village."

This is the third case in two years in which an Anchorage cab driver has been charged with sexually assaulting a passenger. One man was charged in 2010 and convicted in 2011. The case of another is still moving toward trial, according to court records.

The charges against Velasco come after a vote last year by the Anchorage Assembly to allow the city transportation inspector to strip a cabbie of his chauffeur's license if charged with sexual assault.

Velasco left his alleged victim crying outside a Tesoro gas station in the 300 block of Boniface Parkway in the early morning hours of May 1, according to a charging document filed in court Wednesday. A gas station clerk called police when the woman said she'd been raped, the charges say.

It is Daily News policy not to identify victims of sexual assault in most cases, unless the victim approves. The woman Velasco is accused of raping is identified only by her initials in court documents.

Dunlop said the woman underwent a sexual assault exam, the results of which are still pending. The initial examination showed she suffered internal injuries, the charges say.

Surveillance video from outside the gas station showed a Checker Cab car drive by the front of the station about 1:15 a.m. and the victim stagger past a few minutes later, according to the charges.

Detectives began to focus on Velasco after they talked to Checker Cab staff, the charges say. They spoke to him a few hours after the alleged assault.

The cabbie said yes, he'd picked up the woman but said he drove her to the Tesoro gas station so she could buy cigarettes, then started to drive her home, the charges say.

Velasco told detectives the woman could not pay for the cab ride after she bought the cigarettes, according to the charging document.

"After driving around for a while he said that they were unable to find the residence," Velasco said, according to the court papers. "At that point (the woman) told him he was cute and asked if he had any alcohol."

At first, Velasco told the detectives he did not have sex with the alleged victim. When asked if the woman was drunk, he said she could barely walk, the charges say.

The investigators asked Velasco if he would provide a DNA sample from a swab of his mouth. That's when he admitted to kissing the woman, the charges say. When the detectives asked if he'd be willing to undergo a genital swab to collect potential evidence, Velasco refused, according to the charges.

The detectives said they would search the car, which Dunlop, the prosecutor, said Velasco shared with his father.

Then the cabbie's story changed.

When the woman told him he was cute, Velasco said he "did take advantage of that," the charges say.

"He admitted kissing her, going to get beer from his house at her request, and ultimately having sex in the back of his cab at her suggestion," the charges say.

Velasco said he left her back at the Tesoro station about 1:45 a.m. The surveillance video only shows the cab at the gas station once that night, at about 1:15 a.m., the charges say.

Police jailed Velasco on Tuesday. He appeared in court on Wednesday, where a judge ordered that his bail remain at the previous level of $100,000.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.

Anchorage Daily News