ATLANTA – Hertz, the car rental giant, faces mounting claims that it filed false car theft reports against its customers resulting in arrests and jail time. Victims told the FOX 5 I-Team this is not a one-off but rather a systemic issue.
These customers ranged from people using one of the Hertz companies to rent a vehicle after a car accident, some for vacation travel, some as part of a Lyft driver program. But none expected to be arrested, much less at gunpoint.
Paul-Anthony Knight was headed to work in the morning rush hour. He was traveling through the congested connector. Behind him police cars were weaving through traffic, coming up quickly along the shoulders.
All of a sudden, there are three police cars behind me. I looked up. They were after me,” he said.
And they had weapons, pointed at him.
We watched Mr. Knight looking at the dashcam video for the first since his November 2019 arrest.
Visibly upset he said, “This moment changed my life. I was told this vehicle has been reported stolen. I was in a stolen vehicle.”
He was charged with felony theft of the rental car he was driving. He was cuffed, put into the police car, then went to jail.
“One very long week,” he said.
Julius Burnside rented a car through Hertz, extending it several times, after a car accident.
He told the FOX 5 I-Team the rental was paid for and had been back already. Still, a warrant was issued for his arrest for theft by conversion, a felony. He turned himself in April 2018.
“They said I stole the car. I had proof I didn’t, which was bank statements, receipts from Hertz that were emailed to me,” said Julius Burnside who at the time lived in Gwinnett County.
Both men are among more than 260 people who’ve filed similar false arrest claims against Hertz as part of the company’s bankruptcy filing.
Their attorney Francis Malofiy, “Hertz knows they are filing false police reports with false payment information, false return dates, false contact information and providing very misleading reports to the police they are relying on.
The FOX 5 I-Team reached out to Hertz which also owns the Thrifty and Dollar car rental brands.
In an email, we were told, “Hertz cares deeply about our customers, and we successfully provide rental vehicles for tens of millions of travelers each year. Unfortunately, in the legal matters being discussed, the attorneys have a track record of making baseless claims that blatantly misrepresent the facts.”
They went on to say, “The vast majority of these cases involve renters who were many weeks or even months overdue returning vehicles and who stopped communicating with us well beyond the scheduled due date.”
Paul-Anthony Knight said he had just moved to Atlanta from Charlotte for a job. He had been driving for Lyft and had gotten the car from Lyft’s rental program. He was arrested two days before he was scheduled to return the car.
“You’ve lost your job because of job abandonment, and everything seems to snowball at that point,” he recalled.
Mr. Burnside had receipts that show he paid $2,343 for the returned rental. Court records show that he thought the matter was settled. He moved to Mississippi where he lives today. But, he was wrong. The case was not closed and he was re-arrested. He was jailed for nearly seven months.
He told the FOX 5 I-Team he finally pleaded guilty after his daughter begged him to do so.
“I got out the day before her graduation.”
A judge later tossed out Mr. Burnside’s conviction and the theft charges were dismissed. His claim says “Hertz was notorious for losing rental extensions and filing false police reports.”
After two, long years in legal limbo, prosecutors dismissed Paul-Anthony Knight’s case, too.
Hertz reports, since 2016, it’s annually filed more than 3,365 theft reports. Over a six-year period, that’s 20,190 cases. The company writes the FOX 5 I-Team that false arrest claims are “very rare.”
“Hertz must be held accountable for overturning my life and the life of so many others when they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong,” said Paul-Anthony Knight.
Attorney Francis Malofiy added, “If they have been told the information is false if they understand or learn that it’s misleading, they will not correct it.
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