ATLANTE – Hertz, the car rental giant, is facing mounting allegations that it filed false car theft reports against its customers, leading to arrests and jail time. Victims told FOX 5 I-Team that this was not a one-time issue but rather a systemic problem.
These customers ranged from people using one of the Hertz Companies to rent a vehicle after a car accident, some for holidays, others as part of a Lyft Driver Program. But none expected to be arrested, let alone at gunpoint.
Paul-Anthony Knight was driving to work during the morning rush hour. It was traveling through the congested connector. Behind him, police cars weaved through traffic, moving rapidly up the shoulders.
Suddenly, there are three police cars behind me. I looked up. They were after me,” he said.
And they had guns pointed at him.
We watched Mr Knight watch the dashcam video for the first time since his arrest in November 2019.
Visibly upset, he said: “That moment was life changing. I was told this vehicle was reported stolen. I was in a stolen vehicle.”
He was charged with stealing the rental car he was driving. He was handcuffed, put in the police car, then went to jail.
“A very long week,” he said.
Julius Burnside rented a car through Hertz, extending it several times, after a car accident.
He told FOX 5 I-Team that the rental had been paid and had already been returned. Yet an arrest warrant was issued for him for theft by conversion, a felony. He surrendered in April 2018.
“They said I stole the car. I had proof to the contrary, namely bank statements, receipts from Hertz that were emailed to me,” said Julius Burnside, who lived in the time in Gwinnett County.
The two men are among more than 260 people who have filed similar false arrest complaints against Hertz as part of the company’s bankruptcy filing.
Their lawyer Francois Malofy, “Hertz knows that they are filing false police reports with false payment information, false return dates, false contact details and providing very misleading reports to the police on which they rely.
The FOX 5 I-Team reached out to Hertz, which also owns rental car brands Thrifty and Dollar.
In an email we were told, “Hertz cares deeply about its customers and we successfully provide rental vehicles to tens of millions of travelers each year. Unfortunately, in the legal cases being discussed, lawyers are used to making baseless claims who blatantly distort the facts.”
They went on to say, “The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were weeks or even months late on returning vehicles and stopped communicating with us well past their scheduled due date.”
Paul-Anthony Knight said he had just moved to Atlanta from Charlotte for a job. He drove for Lyft and got the car from Lyft’s rental program. He was arrested two days before the scheduled time to return the car.
“You lost your job because of job abandonment, and everything seems to snowball at that point,” he recalls.
Mr. Burnside had receipts showing that he had paid $2,343 for the returned rental. Court records show he thought the case was settled. He moved to Mississippi where he lives today. But he was wrong. The case was not dismissed and he was rearrested. He was imprisoned for nearly seven months.
He told FOX 5 I-Team that he ultimately pleaded guilty after his daughter begged him to.
“I went out the day before his graduation.”
A judge later quashed Mr Burnside’s conviction and the theft charges were dismissed. Its claim states that “Hertz was known to have lost rental extensions and filed false police reports.”
After two long years in legal limbo, prosecutors also dismissed Paul-Anthony Knight’s case.
Hertz reports that since 2016, it has filed more than 3,365 theft reports each year. Over a six-year period, this represents 20,190 cases. The company writes to FOX 5 I-Team that false arrest claims are “very rare.”
“Hertz must be held accountable for turning my life and the lives of so many others upside down when they did absolutely nothing wrong,” said Paul-Anthony Knight.
Lawyer Francis Malofiy added: “If they have been told the information is false, if they understand or learn that it is misleading, they will not correct it.
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