A high-speed chase outside Detroit ends with a suspect in custody, driving a car stolen in Chicago. It’s a story that began Thanksgiving Day. Becky Barron had just listed her 2021 Nissan Rogue on the car sharing service called “Getaround.”

“I didn’t use my car very often, mostly to get to and from work so it would just sit in my parking garage on the weekends and I figured this is a great way to offset my expenses and maybe help someone else out in the meantime,” said Barron.

Like an Airbnb for vehicles, Getaround is one of several online platforms like Turo and Hyre Car where consumers can book a short-term rental for errands or while on vacation and pay a fee based on the length of the reservation. 

Barron had two successful rentals, before she woke up to a strange alert.

“I saw a notification on my phone somebody had instantly rented my car, picked it up at 4 a.m. and it was long gone at that point,” Barron said.

A 62-year-old man from Michigan had booked the five hour rental, but the driver’s license used online had been expired for three years.

“I knew instantly in my gut something is wrong,” Barron said. 

Barron accessed security camera footage from her parking garage which shows a much younger looking man picking up her car. Barron immediately called Getaround, telling them she thought her car had been stolen.

“They kept telling me give this person the benefit of the doubt, they passed all of our checks,” Barron said.

Getaround attempted to call and text the renter with no success. Barron quickly learned through a tracking device installed in her car, that her Nissan was nowhere near Chicago.

“It was continuing to grow further and further away,” she said. “It was an hour before it was supposed to be returned and it was 180 miles away.”  

The vehicle finally stopped at a Citgo gas station in Lincoln Park, Michigan where Getaround remotely disabled the Nissan Rogue, and sent a tow truck and repo team there.  Both reported being threatened by two individuals inside and that they didn’t feel safe retrieving it.

“Why the company then didn’t contact the local police in Michigan to get assistance with recovery of the car is a mystery to me,” attorney Bob Slogib, who is now representing the car owner, said.

Barron then contacted Chicago Police.

“I was told they could not take my report since Getaround assumed responsibility for my car, they were the ones who needed to call and file the report,” she said.

But Getaround didn’t do that, so Barron went back to CPD, and filed a stolen vehicle report not mentioning the car sharing service this time, so there could be a record on file.

The company agreed to give Barron $500 for a rental car in the interim. 

Three weeks passed when she then learned police had finally located her Nissan. After leaving that gas station on Thanksgiving Day, five days later and about 25 miles north of Lincoln Park, police in Royal Oak, Michigan attempted to pull the Nissan Rogue over because it didn’t have its headlights on.

The driver led officers on a chase at speeds up to 90 miles per hour, crashing over an off-ramp embankment and flipping the vehicle. Three occupants got out and attempted to flee. Police arrested Robert Lawrence Engram for possession of a stolen vehicle and obstructing and eluding police.  A report shows there were multiple debit and gift cards, iPhones and an iPad in the vehicle.  A juvenile was also taken into custody.  The third suspect got away.

“What I was told by the detective in Michigan in charge of the case is that it was likely part of a whole underground crime ring where people steal cars and pass it around to conduct illegal activities,” Barron said.

WGN News contacted Chicago Police to find out how many other cars have been stolen through Getaround’s platform.  In 2022 alone, they report 28 of them.

“You need to be careful,” Todd Kossow, Midwest Director for the Federal Trade Commission said.  “This can be a way to make some extra money if you don’t use your car a lot, but there are real risks involved.  You need to go in with your eyes open.”

The FTC issued a consumer alert for peer to peer car rental apps last summer after a number of concerning reports of cars damaged, stolen, or used in the commission of a crime.

In Washington DC, the Attorney General took action against Getaround in 2021 after investigating multiple complaints of stolen vehicles, fining the company $950,000 for engaging in unfair or deceptive business practices, and misleading consumers on safety and security measures, as well as not paying business taxes and operating without a license.  The AG demanded Getaround upgrade its policies and procedures and pay restitution to customers affected. 

Barron also filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.

“The fact that Getaround doesn’t seem to be bothered by this or care at all by how they are affecting people’s lives is what is just so upsetting to me,” she said.

During this whole ordeal, Barron took to social media and received a message on Instagram from get around’s CEO Sam Zaid, where he apologizes for letting her down.

“I’m sorry again that we f’ed up here,” he said.  “We plan to retro the situation and adjust our internal processes to avoid this in the future.”

WGN News contacted Getaround and a spokesperson says the company thoroughly vets renters, using third party ID verification software. Getaround says that system contacts the DMV which cleared the Michigan man.  Renters also have to upload a selfie, and a second form of photo government issued ID, Getaround using facial recognition to validate a renter.  Getaround said the man passed all those checks.

Barron, who now often uses Uber to get around, is still without a vehicle and says she won’t be using car sharing services anymore.

“I think it is a good concept in theory if it is implemented correctly and that is where Getaround is failing,” she said  “They aren’t taking the proper precautions to keep their consumers safe.”

Since Barron’s vehicle was leased, Getaround’s insurance company paid Nissan directly for the total loss.  Barron received $3,000 for the title transfer, license plate fees and taxes she paid when she first leased the car.  That vehicle remains impounded in Michigan, part of an active criminal investigation.

As far as why Getaround didn’t contact the police in Michigan when those two repo attempts failed, the company says by law a car isn’t considered stolen until it hasn’t been returned for three days.

In a statement, the company said, “Getaround has always been committed to connecting safe, convenient, and affordable cars with community members who need them to live and work.”

The company also says it has upgraded its hardware and implemented better security practices.