Attorney General Cuomo Sues School Bus Companies That Left Nyc Public School Students Without Transportation
NEW YORK, N.Y. (October 6, 2010) -- Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a lawsuit against several related Queens-based school bus companies that collected advance payments to provide transportation for public school students, then abruptly terminated service and failed to provide promised refunds. The actions left many families stranded without transportation services to get their children to and from school.
According to the Attorney General’s lawsuit, Thomas Guida and the various bus companies he operated (Bronx Science Bus Service, Inc., Bronx Science Express, Inc., Gagnon Bus Company, Inc. and Hunter Express Bus Service, Inc.) entered into contracts with hundreds of parents of public high school students to provide daily transportation to Bronx High School of Science, Hunter College High School and Lehman College High School of American Studies. Parents purchased such services so their children could avoid relying on lengthy daily commutes via public transportation. The typical annual fee was more than $2,000 per student. The bus companies’ advertisements promised new high-tech buses and superior service, and customers were encouraged to sign up early and prepay in-full to take advantage of a discounted rate.
“Parents were promised that their children were getting a reliable ride to school but instead were left scrambling to find alternative transportation,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “When the company abruptly shut down, it failed to provide refunds or adequately explain itself. My office is fighting on behalf of hundreds of families who paid good money for a service and were then ripped off.”
Attorney General Cuomo’s lawsuit claims that the bus companies collected more than $1 million from parents of approximately 500 students for service during the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years. However, halfway through the 2008-2009 school year, the bus companies abruptly terminated service, stranding hundreds of Queens students. Complainants also stated that the companies, when in operation, sometimes used rented vans instead of buses, were frequently late in picking up and dropping off students, and that the buses were unreliable and often broke down.
As described in papers filed by the Attorney General’s Office, the companies issued “special notices” of the shutdown to the families giving several reasons for failing to provide service, including claiming that the bus fleet was “victimized by arsonists” and rendered “un-useable.”
After terminating services, the companies shut down and could not be reached by consumers.
Attorney General Cuomo’s lawsuit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, seeks restitution for the aggrieved customers, plus penalties and costs. The suit names Guida individually and as principal officer of Bronx Science Express, Inc., which did business as Jim Gagnon’s Bronx Science Express, Inc., and Gagnon’s Bronx Science Express, Inc.
Attorney General Cuomo urges consumers who believe they have been a victim of fraud to contact his office at 800-771-7755 or visit www.ag.ny.gov
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Roberto G. Lebron under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Harlem Regional Office Guy H. Mitchell, Special Deputy Attorney General of Consumer Frauds & Protection Joy Feigenbaum, Consumer Frauds Deputy Bureau Chief Jeffrey Powell, Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Michael Berlin and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Maria Vullo.