LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — December 25 will mark the one-year anniversary of a Christmas day Nickalaus Close would like to forget.
As 13 Investigates first reported in June, Nick and his girlfriend, Sarah Matt, rented a U-Haul in St. George to spend Christmas 2021 in Las Vegas with her family.
But Nick and Paul Matt, Sarah’s father, were arrested at a 7-Eleven on Boulder Highway, where they’d stopped to gas up on their way to Christmas dinner.
“I got a phone call from Nick from jail saying that he was pulled over for stolen plates on a U-Haul that we just rented,” Sarah recalled.
The license plate number on Nick’s contract didn’t match the plate on the truck.
And the plate on the truck had been reported stolen in California almost a year and a half prior.
“This is just pure negligence!” said Sarah.
In response to a public records request, Henderson Police provided body camera footage several months after our story aired in June.
Paul: The U-Haul’s not stolen, is it.
Officer: That I’m not sure of. They will not tell me that information.
Nick: Why am I going to jail now, though?
Officer: Why? We already explained it to you! Because you have a warrant.
Nick: A traffic warrant?
Officer: Yes! And because you were driving a vehicle that has a stolen license plate!
Nick: That’s impossible!
Paul: We didn’t put the stolen license plate on there! Why would we put a stolen license plate on our vehicle?
Officer: I’m not going to argue with you!
Paul: Why would we put a stolen license plate on a vehicle that’s legal?
Police records show the two men were charged with displaying a fictitious plate.
“Wrong place, wrong time, perfect storm,” said Attorney Michael Van, who helped Nick clear his record and get a financial settlement from U-Haul.
In the process, U-Haul admitted to Nick that the wrong plate was on the truck and apologized for the “unfortunate incident.”
Fast forward to November when David Levine contacted 13 Investigates after finding our previous story online.
He rented a U-Haul van at the office on Bonanza Rd. to move some furniture into his condo.
He wound up under arrest for grand theft auto.
“How could they allow things like this to happen?! There’s something going on here and they need to pull it together,” said Levine, who was arrested Nov. 5 in the high rise where he lives on Las Vegas Blvd.
The U-Haul he rented was parked in his assigned spot in the building’s parking garage, which he described as swarming with police on every floor, up and down stairwells, looking for the man who they thought was a thief.
According to the police report, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police responded to a stolen vehicle call after Levine’s U-Haul was flagged by a license plate reader near Sahara and I-15.
Officers tracked the vehicle to Levine’s building.
“I put my hands up and they cuffed me right away. I had no idea what was going on, but they kept talking about this U-Haul.”
The events that led from rental to a felony grand larceny charge began with a paperwork mix-up when U-Haul gave Levine a contract with the wrong name.
“Another customer’s name, but my address. I don’t know how that happens. And then his phone number, my driver’s license number and his email address.”
The contract also had the wrong terms.
Instead of a few hours, Levine had planned to keep the truck for several days.
His cell phone logs show multiple calls with U-Haul to resolve the mix-up, which he thought he had successfully done.
“I called and I checked, and they said ‘No, you can drive it, you can renew the contract’.”
The company disputes that.
No one from U-Haul would go on camera but in a statement, they claimed Levine kept the van “Six days on a one-day rental, never paid for it, and ignored repeated requests to have the equipment returned.”
According to the police report, U-Haul told them an “Employee pulled the van to the front of the business and left the keys inside for Levine to take after completing the rental agreement,” but “Levine had gotten upset about how long the rental contract was taking and stormed out of the business… Then left in the van prior to completing a valid contract.”
Several days later, U-Haul reported the vehicle as stolen.
In his statement to 13 Investigates, the Nevada market company president for U-Haul, Steven Deutsch, says, “This situation was both regrettable and avoidable from both sides.”
Levine says the information in the police report is false, and he did nothing wrong.
“And so, yeah, I went to jail for the first time and I spent 24 hours in there, spent $5,000 bail which I still haven’t gotten back yet, I had to go to court, it’s on my record right now and could take up to three years for it to go away. It affects getting jobs.”
Deutsch’s statement to 13 Investigates says, “Upon my investigation of this situation, we moved immediately to drop the charges against Mr. Levine. It is clear mistakes were made by both parties that led to this unfortunate circumstance. We apologize to Mr. Levine for the error that our team made during the dispatch process and any confusion it caused.”
A text stream between Levine and Steven Deutsch shows the company contacted Metro and arranged for the charges to be dropped.
On Dec. 6, court records show the District Attorney’s office formally denied prosecution.
“I don’t want anyone to experience what I experienced. No one should,” said Levine. “And they should take accountability!”