ORLANDO, Fla. — An ex-cop-turned-felon who Channel 9 has reported on before is now being accused by car rental customers of tacking on questionable fees and sending threatening letters when they try to dispute the bill.
One customer told Action 9 she was charged airport fees, but Orlando International Airport leaders say the car rental company isn’t affiliated with them in any way, and now they’ve issued a cease and desist.
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Channel 9 investigative reporter Karla Ray tried tracking down the owner for answers.
A holiday trip to Disney turned into a rental car nightmare for the Clark family from Texas that played out in messages, emails and certified letters.
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“Immediately, I started getting text messages from Joseph, saying that if I didn’t do XYZ, I would lose the rental,” Brooke Clark said.
Clark is talking about Joseph Conover, who now runs “Orlando Experience by Joseph.” It’s a car rental service the family reserved through a third-party website.
Clark showed us the texts she received, including a demand for a deposit on top of what she’d already sent through that website.
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“By that time, we’d already paid the $840 nonrefundable,” she said. “And then I’ve already paid him a $500 deposit. So now, I felt really like I had to see this through.”
Only then was she sent an email with a link to the company’s rental policies, including fines of up to $1,000 for cleaning and instructions about what to do upon arrival at Orlando International Airport; in bold, “Do not go to the rental counter.”
“Joseph told us that he needs another amount of money or we will lose the car, saying it’s airport fees,” Clark said. “I still paid it, because I had already paid so much, and I didn’t want to lose the car.”
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A bank record shows the charge for more than $200, but we learned the airport doesn’t collect fees from Conover’s company. An airport spokesperson told us via email that the company is not affiliated with the airport as an on-airport operator, or off-airport permit holder.
“The airport personnel never heard of him,” Clark said.
We tried to talk to Conover at his listed office address, and at his home in Kissimmee. Both attempts were unsuccessful, and our calls to his business number went unanswered.
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The company has a D+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. A representative of the company responded to Brooke’s complaint on the BBB website by stating they “do not comment on pending litigation” and that they “operate a properly licensed and insured vehicle rental company that complies with all regulatory provisions.”
Clark decided to return the car early, switching to a different company and putting a stop payment on the $500 deposit. That led to a letter being sent to her through certified mail, threatening legal action against her, on top of additional charges for alleged damage to the vehicle.
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“I kind of feel like I let down my family,” Clark said. “I feel like I let down myself, I feel like I fell for something that was wrong.”
The letter Clark received threatened “criminal” charges, which is something only a law enforcement officer could bring. Airport leaders told Action 9 they issued a cease and desist against Conover’s company, and if he returns to airport property to do business, he’ll be issued a trespass.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office received a complaint from another consumer, who claims he was threatened with legal action for leaving a bad review about his experience online. That office has tips on how to protect yourself when renting a car, which you can read here.
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