(Photo: Getty Images)
LAS CRUCES – Between March and August 2020 there have been at least seven reported instances in Las Cruces where people have failed to return rental vehicles, an embezzlement charge.
According to Dan Trujillo, spokesperson for the Las Cruces Police Department, instances where people do not return rental vehicles are common. He said they can occur when a vehicle is borrowed from someone and not returned as well as between a person and a rental car company.
Based on statistics provided by LCPD, there were 24 cases of embezzlement in 2019 and 24 cases so far in 2020. Trujillo said five of the cases were reported as embezzled from “an actual paid rental agreement. And of those five, four of them occurred in 2020.” He said the one known case from 2019 was from U-Haul.
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According to court records as of Aug. 18, there have been at least seven reported cases of embezzlement from a rental company in 2020, which may not necessarily be calculated in the LCPD data. Two cases stemmed from events in March, two were in May and three were in July. Only one case has been resolved so far, with warrants having been issued for the arrest of people involved in all other instances. Six of the cases involve vehicles worth more than $2,500 — rented from Avis Car Rental, Sisbarro, U-Haul and Enterprise Rent-A-Car — and one involves a vehicle worth more than $20,000 — from Nissan of Las Cruces.
Statistics from the Las Cruces Police Department show the number of instances of embezzlement involving vehicles in Las Cruces for 2019 and the first half of 2020. (Photo: Las Cruces Police Department)
“In both instances, police will complete a report and enter the vehicle (in) NCIC (National Crime Information Center). Sometimes, when the vehicle is returned, the reporting party declines to pursue charges,” Trujillo said in an email.
Gregory Scott, spokesperson for the American Car Rental Association, said that in embezzlement cases, companies try to reach out to customers multiple times before involving law enforcement. He said ACRA does not keep statistical records on the number of instances in which this happens.
“Filing a stolen vehicle report with law enforcement generally is the last resort for car rental companies when all other efforts to communicate with a renter, secure payment for the rental, and recover the rented vehicle, have failed,” Scott said.
While it is unclear if the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the number of embezzlement cases companies are experiencing, Scott said the car rental industry has seen a decline in overall rentals during the health crisis. He said, depending on location within the country, airport rentals are down 50-80% on average and local rentals are down more than 50%.
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