Hertz CEO admits to wrongful arrests after NewsNation investigation

Investigation

(NewsNation) — The new CEO of Hertz admitted that customers of the rental-car giant were wrongly arrested and accused of stealing cars they had rented following a NewsNation investigation.

Stephen Scherr, who took over as CEO on Feb. 28, said the company has changed its practices to fix problems that have occurred when cars were reported stolen but the transaction was improperly recorded in Hertz’s system.

Scherr promised to “do right” by customers who have been treated unfairly in an interview with Bloomberg TV, and admitted publicly for the first time that some were wrongly arrested.

 NewsNation previously reported on the nightmare situations that led customers to sue the rental giant last year. More than 200 customers asked a federal judge in Delaware to force Hertz to disclose records about erroneous theft reports, and the judge ruled in the renters’ favor in February.

It’s not clear how many people were affected. Unsealed bankruptcy documents suggest Hertz has filed thousands of these police reports every year. One of them is Charles Doucette. NewsNation’s Rich McHugh spoke with him from behind bars in a Florida jail in February.

Doucette, a health care consultant from New Hampshire, was arrested aboard a cruise ship last week when police accused him of stealing his Hertz rental car.

“Here I am getting off a cruise ship and I’m handcuffed and arrested and thrown in jail,” Doucette said. “I have zero criminal records. I’ve never been arrested. It’s just absolutely absurd.”

Doucette told NewsNation he rented a car for business in 2020 and extended the rental several times. But last March, Arizona police stopped him and told him Hertz filed a police report saying the car had been stolen.

Hertz charged his credit card nearly $4,000 for the full rental. But Doucette says Arizona prosecutors still brought it to a grand jury where they indicted him and issued a warrant for his arrest.

“It’s something that is ruining my life in my business every single day that I’m here. There are not words to express how much I miss my home, my dog, and there’s nothing I can do about it,” Doucette said to McHugh, voice cracking with emotion. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m innocent, and I’m being treated as guilty until proven innocent. This is my worst nightmare that I’m living in. I’m going to have nothing when I get out of here. Everything I worked so hard for isn’t just going to be thrown away.”

Julius Burnside is part of one of the lawsuits against Hertz, saying they were falsely arrested, even jailed after Hertz said the cars they rented legitimately were stolen.

“I felt it was a joke..like you you’re telling me I got a warrant for my arrest for something I paid for. That’s not possible,” Burnside told NewsNation last year.

According to the lawsuit, Burnside was released but then missed a court date, which resulted in his re-arrest and detention.

“Several months later, I was forced to sign a plea deal to get out of jail,” Burnside said.

Eventually, a Georgia court ruled that Burnside had in fact paid for his rental and dismissed the case entirely.

“Everything was dismissed, overturned. I cry. I cry now,” Burnside said.

NewsNation repeatedly reached out to Hertz for an on-camera interview but they have not agreed to that.

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