A man charged by with driving off with a rental car and not returning it for nearly seven months said personal turmoil prevented him from bringing the vehicle back to Moon.
Police charged Nicholas Balzer, 38, of Port Richey, FL, with a felony count of theft of leased property and unauthorized use of an automobile after police said he failed to return a white Hyundai Sonata to Budget Rent A Car in Moon. The vehicle's rental agreement expired on Nov. 20, according to police.
In February, police obtained a warrant for Balzer's arrest. He turned himself in to police after racking up nearly $900 in late rental fees.
Balzer this week called the incident a misunderstanding. He said the death of his mother in Florida and confusion with his auto insurance agency prevented him from returning the vehicle on time.
The former Pittsburgh resident said he wasn't aware that Moon Police had obtained the warrant for his arrest until several weeks ago.
"I've come up here to try to straighten everything out," said Balzer, who said he planned to plead not guilty at his July 12 preliminary hearing in Coraopolis District Court.
"I dropped my whole life [in Florida] to come up here and deal with this. I mean, I'm charged with a felony."
Balzer said he rented the Hyundai on Oct. 20 from Budget Rent A Car after a car crash last fall in Allegheny County left his vehicle with more than $1,100 in damage, he said.
Findlay Township Police charged Balzer with summary careless driving on Oct. 20, according to court records.
When Balzer failed to return the car when his rental lease expired Nov. 20, the staff at the car rental agency called police. Staff members said they tried but could not contact Balzer to ask him about the vehicle, according to police reports.
Balzer said he believed his insurance agency would cover the cost of the rental car while a Brookline auto body shop repaired his car after the crash.
"They still have my car right now," Balzer said of the auto repair shop. "There has been some progress made, but it's just been ridiculous. It was dropped off there in October."
Balzer said he moved to Florida at the beginning of December to begin a new job and continued to drive the Hyundai there for several months. On Jan. 17, he said, he learned his mother had died in Pittsburgh. He said he'd assumed he had permission to drive the rental vehicle out of the state.
He said he was distraught following his mother's death and used the rental vehicle to make the 17-hour drive to Pittsburgh for her funeral and back again to Florida.
"I was just really depressed," he said. "I didn't know what to do [after his mother's death]."
Balzer said he was so despondent after his mother's death that he failed to answer any voice mails left on his phone for several months. Also during that period, a clash with his roommate ended with him locked out of his Florida home and unable to check his mail, he said.
"The whole thing has just been really difficult," he said.
Acting on a warrant obtained by Moon Police, police in Port Richey confiscated the Hyundai earlier this month. After turning himself in to face those charges, Balzer said he discussed his circumstances with Chief Leo McCarthy. He was originally scheduled to appear in Coraopolis District Court on June 21, but his hearing was postponed until July.
"I'm up here now to deal with this and do the right thing," said Balzer, who said he is concerned with his reputation following his arrest.
"I left my job, I broke up with my girlfriend, I don't have a car. I just want to deal with this."