By Patrick Markey
New York City police have arrested a livery cab driver, charging him with two vicious sex attacks that may be part of a recent spree of assaults on Irish immigrants in the city’s bustling Woodside neighborhood.
It was at about 3:30 a.m. on Aug. 22 when Sgt. Billy Hargrove and Det. Brian Kenzik from the Queens Special victims squad noticed Jamie Oliveira’s VW Jetta motoring around a clutch of Woodside bars.
Since that was the approximate time several Irish woman were recently attacked by a cab driver and Oliveira appeared to be ogling women from his car, the two undercover detectives decided they should check him out.
The detectives thought Oliveira fitted the description victims had given police. And once he told them he worked as a cab driver, they thought they should dig a little deeper.
"When we asked him what he did and he told us he worked a livery driver, we kind of looked at each other," Hargrove said.
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The two cops checked out details of Oliveira’s work vehicle and what they found made them even more sure they were on the right track.
A ticket summons found inside Oliveria’s car matched the partial license plate, T231, one of the victims had managed to give to detectives, Hargrove said. A day later, after some more detective work, they arrested the defendant at Queens home.
Detectives said Oliveira has admitted attacking the women after picking them up in his cab on July 9 and Aug. 6 this year. One of the victims has also picked Oliveira out from a police lineup and a photo array, Hargrove said.
Oliveira has been charged with rape, attempted rape, kidnapping, sexual assault, sexual abuse and unlawful imprisonment, according to the Queens district attorney’s office. A judge determined he should be held on $150,000 bail.
Investigators said in the first attack the victim got into defendant’s cab at around 3:50 a.m. When they arrived at her destination, he allegedly pinned her on the back seat, stripped her and assaulted her. In the second attack, the victim fell asleep in the back of the vehicle. When she woke up she was being raped, according to prosecutors.
Police described Oliveira’s attacks as crimes of opportunity, but the two incidents fit a recent pattern of attacks that have spread fear through the local Irish community. Six women have been attacked over the last 13 months, several after trying to take a taxi home in the early-morning hours.
The latest attack took place on Aug. 16 at about 9:30 p.m. when a man attempted to rape an Irish woman before she managed to escape from her assailant’s car. The victim was attacked in the back of a vehicle after leaving a local bar and alcohol played a part in the assault, according to a police.
Oliveira has not been charged with that attack. But detectives are still investigating four other assaults in the sex-attack pattern, where all the victims were attacked in the early-morning hours after trying to catch a taxi ride home. One victim managed to escape during the attempted rape.
Police said the Queens serial sex attacker usually strikes between 2:30-4:30 a.m. and takes the victims to a secluded area where he sexually assaults them. In some cases the assailant beat or choked his victims. In other incidents, the victim fell asleep in the vehicle and woke up in the back seat to find the assailant on top of her.
In most of the incidents alcohol has played a part in the attacks as the women were picked up by a cab driver after leaving a bar alone.
Detectives have recently learned that more Irish women may have been attacked but could have returned to Ireland without telling anyone about the incident, according to one police source familiar with the case.
DNA tests have linked the first four attacks and four of the victims have also identified another suspect, Cesar Vicuna, a 28-year-old illegal Ecuadorian immigrant, from police photo lineups. Queens detectives believe Vicuna may also used his cabbie job as an opportunity to prey on vulnerable women.