Man Kidnapped and Sexually Assaulted Woman, Then Put Her in Cell, F.B.I. Says


An Oregon man posing as an undercover police officer last month kidnapped a woman in Seattle, sexually assaulted her, drove her to his home and locked her in a makeshift cell from which she managed to escape, the F.B.I. said on Wednesday.

The authorities said that the suspect, Negasi Zuberi, 29, who was arrested in Nevada on July 16, had been linked to violent sexual assaults in at least four other states and that they were investigating whether he was involved in others.

“Sadly, we believe there are more victims,” Stephanie Shark, assistant special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Portland office, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Mr. Zuberi was taken into custody after he was spotted by two Nevada police officers with his wife and children in a Walmart parking lot in Reno, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Medford, Ore. He will face a charge of interstate kidnapping, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, according to Nathan Lichvarcik, chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in Eugene and Medford, Ore.

Negasi Zuberi.Credit…FBI, via Associated Press

A lawyer representing Mr. Zuberi did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

On July 15, the day before his arrest, Mr. Zuberi solicited a woman in Seattle “to engage in prostitution,” according to the criminal complaint. After having a sexual encounter with the woman, who was identified only as “Adult Victim 1,” Mr. Zuberi told her that he was an undercover police officer and that he had to take her into custody, the complaint states.

Mr. Zuberi placed the woman in handcuffs, put her in the back seat of his vehicle and drove her from Seattle to his home in Klamath Falls, Ore., about 450 miles away, according to the complaint. At some point on the drive, Mr. Zuberi pulled over and forced the woman to have sex with him, the complaint said.

When they arrived at Mr. Zuberi’s home, he put her in a makeshift cell that he had built in his garage, according to the complaint.

“The cell was made of cinder blocks and a metal door installed in reverse so it could not be opened from the inside,” the complaint said.

Mr. Zuberi left the woman in the cell for a few hours, telling her he needed to do paperwork, according to the complaint. She was able, however, to force her way out, Capt. Rob Reynolds of the Klamath Falls Police Department said at the news conference. The F.B.I. said in a statement that the woman had been able to break the cell door by repeatedly hitting it.

“If she didn’t do what she did, we wouldn’t be here today, and Mr. Zuberi would not be in custody,” Captain Reynolds said. Details about how she escaped could not be shared because of the active investigation, Captain Reynolds said.

As soon as she escaped, the woman flagged down the first vehicle she saw, Captain Reynolds said. The vehicle’s driver called 911, and the woman was taken to a hospital, according to the complaint.

The authorities did not identify where the other sexual assaults to which they had linked Mr. Zuberi had occurred.

Mr. Zuberi has lived in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Alabama and Florida, Ms. Shark said. She said that he had used a number of aliases, including Sakima Zuberi, Justin Kouassi and Justin Hyche.

“It is believed he may have used several different methods to gain control of his victims,” Ms. Shark said, including “drugging their drinks and impersonating a law enforcement officer.”

The authorities asked that anyone with information about Mr. Zuberi contact the F.B.I.

“We are concerned that if we work backwards, we’re going to find unfortunately numerous victims,” Ms. Shark said.


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