Rental car customers arrested for ‘stolen’ vehicles

Investigation

(NewsNation Now) — A New Hampshire man is sitting in Florida jail after he says Hertz filed a police report wrongfully accusing him of stealing a rental car. He is one of the hundreds of Hertz customers that say the exact same thing happened to them.

Newly released unsealed bankruptcy documents suggest Hertz has filed 1000s of these police reports every year. NewsNation previously reported on the nightmare situations that led customers to sue the rental giant last year. Now, a new night nightmare situation is developing.

Charles 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.

NewsNation’s Rich McHugh spoke with him from behind bars in a Florida jail.

“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.”

Doucette can’t even post bail to leave the Florida jail because of the rules between states.

Francis Alexander Malfi is Doucette’s attorney, and McHugh asked him, “Your client was taken off a cruise ship arrested, he’s in jail, Why can he not post bail? Why can’t he get out?”

“If you are picked up in another state on a warrant for your arrest, it doesn’t matter how much money you have. It doesn’t matter if you can afford bail. You have to be extradited,” Doucette’s lawyer Francis Alexander Malofiy said. “This warrant should have never been issued. He would have never been thrown into the criminal justice system if Hertz’s systems were accurate and information that they had was actually true and correct.”

Hertz would not comment on Doucette’s case, but NewsNation found others, like Julius Burnside who has filed 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.

Hertz declined our request for an on-camera interview and would not comment on these cases.

“These cases involve renters who were many weeks or even months overdue returning vehicles and only reports to authorities after exhaustive attempts to reach the customer,” Hertz said in a statement to NewsNation.

Throughout the crisis, Ukraine’s leaders have sought to project calm — repeatedly playing down the threat of an invasion.

Malofiy said the statement was lip service.

“It’s not one case. It’s not two cases. It’s hundreds,” Malofiy said.

“Here I am sitting in jail with my entire life being ruined,” Doucette said. “Anybody who has rented from Hertz or anybody who does rent from Hertz it’s without even knowing could be in the same situation as I am someday and that’s horrifying. That’s completely unacceptable.”

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