A real stumper
When your car is stolen, the best you can hope for is getting it back in one piece. So, this California couple was grateful when police called and said that they had found their brand new SUV months after it was stolen. But given what the car had been used for in the meantime, they couldn’t help but give their returned vehicle a bit of side-eye.
You see the stolen car had become part of the much-vaunted gig economy. Someone snatched their car and then used it for a side hustle driving for Lyft.
Cierra and Josh Barton bought a Honda HR-V earlier this summer, but they’d barely had the car for any time at all when someone stole it out of the parking lot in front of their apartment.
Cierra was the one who discovered that the car was missing.
“The panic set in a little bit,” Cierra said of her search of the parking lot in an interview with KRON4. “I ran back upstairs to talk to my husband and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the car is gone!”‘
Several months later, the couple got a call from police in Hayward, California. The car had been found abandoned on the side of the road in a town several hours from where it was stolen. With that amount of distance and the knowledge that it had been abandoned, the couple steeled themselves for the worst possible outcomes.
“I was imagining the worst when we went to pick it up,” Cierra said, explaining that she expected the car to be burnt or otherwise trashed.
“It wasn’t burned out, it wasn’t gutted, but it appeared to be have been used as a Lyft,” she told San Francisco Chronicle.
According to the couple, the car had only minor cosmetic damage to the hood, but it was absolutely covered in Lyft stickers. And if the card had been used as part of the ride-hailing app, the driver had made a pretty penny. The odomoter clocked 11,000 more miles than the car had on it when it was stolen earlier this year.
Joshua Barton was shocked that a driver for Lyft was able to sign up and get work while operating a stolen vehicle.
“How did somebody pass a background check with my make and model of the car that’s registered to me and was successfully driving around, and able to actually make a profit?” Joshua said.
“Not only did someone steal our car, they made money off it,” Cierra added.
Their shock is well-warranted. While it’s not as rigorous as becoming a taxi driver, Lyft drivers in California do need to clear some hurdles before they can start picking people up. To drive a Lyft in the state, you must supply a vehicle inspection form, a California driver’s license, personal vehicle insurance, a driver photo, and a California license plate.
The HR-V was so new at the time it was stolen that it still had temporary dealer tags on it. Police in the town of Pleasanton found metal plates belonging to the vehicle after word got out about the mysterious Lyft.
Making matters even stranger, Lyft can’t find any info on the vehicle ever being registered with them. In a statement to The Chronicle, they said:
“The safety of the Lyft community is our top priority and we take these allegations seriously Given the information provided, we are unable to match this vehicle to any Lyft accounts in the area. […] We have reached out to Ms. Barton and we stand ready to assist law enforcement in any investigation.”
Check out a local news report on the strange case up top. What do you think? What happened here? Sound off in the comments and be sure to SHARE this article.