Car rental company working with customers after investigation into car thefts, bills sent out

Published: Mar. 26, 2022 at 11:35 AM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Avis-Budget Group released a statement on an investigation into stolen rental cars and a South Carolina lawmaker who said he received a bill for more than $20,000.

The rental car company released the following statement Friday afternoon:

Avis Budget Group has terminated the employment of the person responsible and is resolving matters directly with customers who have been impacted.

The statement comes after a report Wednesday that Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston County), who rented a car for a few days in January, received a bill for more than $20,000 in damages.

Gilliard said he returned the car without a scratch.

When he couldn’t get answers from Avis-Budget officials, Gilliard said his next step was to reach out to the Charleston International Airport and Charleston County Aviation Authority Police.

The investigation revealed a number of rental cars had been reported stolen and led to the arrests of two men.

Gilliard said he wanted to know how many others have been caught in the situation.

He said when he couldn’t get answers from Budget-Avis officials, Gilliard reached out to contacts at the Charleston International Airport to investigate. Airport police checked the security cameras and conducted an investigation.

A police report states they suspected an employee had taken the car without logging it back in.

Police found a number of rental cars had been reported stolen. Last month, two men were arrested on multiple charges.

Domaneck Dixon is charged with 18 counts of grand larceny value $10,000 or more, and Luther Antonio Smith was charged with five counts of possession of a stolen vehicle, according to jail records.

Gilliard also requested the State Law Enforcement Division look into the case, sending a formal request to the agency’s director, Mark Keel, on Thursday.

SLED released the following statement:

SLED received a letter from Rep. Gilliard regarding an incident at the Charleston Airport. Upon review, that incident was investigated by the Charleston County Aviation Authority Police Department and concluded with an arrest. No assistance from SLED has been requested by Chief Chris Helms at this time.

Gilliard says he wants to know how many more people have been caught in this situation. He says even if someone was arrested for the theft, the company needs to be held accountable for threatening letters sent by collection agencies.

“If anybody anywhere had insurance pay for something that they thought they had done then they better take a second look into it, is the warning that I am putting out there,” Gilliard said.

The lawmaker said he was also working on a way to create a law that makes car rental companies more accountable to protect customers.

As of this week, airport police said the case remained under investigation.

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