A man posing as an Uber driver is reported to have sexually assaulted a woman on the American University campus in Washington, DC on Sunday (19 November).

The Washington Metropolitan Police have arrested El Houcine Jourhdaly, 36, of Springfield, Virginia, according to charging documents obtained by CBS News.

The assault took place on the university campus around 3.30am (10.30pm GMT), near the Asbury Building, Massachusetts Avenue, police said.

According to the authorities, the woman noticed an Uber sticker on the window of a Honda Civic and flagged it down.

When the woman and her male friend got into the vehicle and asked the driver to take them to the American University, the driver instructed the woman to sit in the front seat.

As the car arrived at the destination, the driver ordered the male passenger to get out and he sped away with the female passenger in the front seat, the arrest affidavit filed in the DC Superior Court stated.

But an Uber spokeswoman said Jourhdaly was not an active Uber driver and was banned from driving for the ride-sharing app in 2015. She did not reveal the reason for his removal, the Washington Post reported.

According to Jourhdaly, he told the detectives that the woman "wanted to be with him", police said in the court affidavit.

American University spokesman Mark Story said he could not confirm if the victim was a student at the school as it is a matter of confidentiality and police investigations are on.

A serious problem?

According to Uber guidelines, riders cannot flag down vehicles registered with it like taxis. The service can only be provided if the ride has been booked through its app, which provides the customer with the driver's information.

Uber has issued several safety tips to passengers. Customers are advised to make sure the driver, vehicle and licence plate number and the driver's photo match the information on the app. Customers can also track their route via GPS and share their route with friends.

Even drivers who pass Uber's background checks may not be safe to ride with.

One of the regulatory agencies in Colorado fined Uber's parent company $8.9m (£6.7m) for allowing people with criminal records and those without licence to work for the taxi app.

According to a statement from the state's Public Utilities Commission (PUC), the fine related to 57 drivers "who should not have been permitted to drive for the company".

The investigation against the drivers started after a driver was accused of assaulting a passenger and transport enforcement staff started to cross check Uber's driver records, the commission said.

"We have determined that Uber had background check information that should have disqualified these drivers under the law, but they were allowed to drive anyway," PUC director, Doug Dean, said. "These actions put the safety of passengers in extreme jeopardy."

"PUC staff was able to find felony convictions that the company's background checks failed to find, demonstrating that the company's background checks are inadequate," Dean said. "In other cases, we could not confirm criminal background checks were even conducted by Uber."

An Uber spokesperson disputed the agency's allegations and said the company had discovered "a process error" and "proactively notified" the PUC. "This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action.

"Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third party background screening. We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans," the spokesperson added.

Uber Quebec