Illinois AG files fraud suit against bus company

By Problem Solver
Posted July 21, 2010 at 1:43 p.m.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed suit Wednesday against a Melrose Park bus company, saying it defrauded a group of hearing-impaired students and their families.

The suit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, claims Sleepless in the City Bus Service Inc., took $1,750 from the Illinois Service Resource Center, then failed to provide transportation for 55 students and their families on April 27, 2009.

Madigan’s lawsuit comes less than a year after the Problem Solver wrote about the case.

The Aug. 18 column described how some families waited more than four hours at the Hinsdale Oasis for the Sleepless in the City buses to show. After realizing the bus company was not going to arrive, the non-profit resource center scrambled to find another bus company to take the students on their field trip to the Illinois School for the Deaf in Downstate Jacksonville, west of Springfield.

Madigan said the resource center paid an additional $3,100 for last-minute bus service from a different company. Her lawsuit alleges Sleepless in the City Bus Service, Inc., and its owner, Richard Lawrence of Lake Zurich, violated the Illinois Consumer Fraud Act by accepting money, then failing to provide services. She also alleges the company failed to respond to requests for a refund.

“Sleepless in the City’s customers paid a lot of money for transportation to take their kids on an important trip. They were taken for a ride, but it wasn’t on a bus,” Madigan said in a news release. “This company is clearly more interested in pocketing people’s money than in providing the transportation service they claim to offer.”

The Problem Solver left a message on the company’s answering machine Wednesday morning. It was not immediately returned.

In August, a man who identified himself as “Rick” told the Problem Solver the bus company had called the resource center to confirm the trip two days before it was scheduled to occur. He said no one from the center called back.

“We do not send our buses out unless we have confirmation,” he said at the time. Rick said he kept the resource center’s $1,750 because it booked a similar trip months earlier but never paid.

The director of the resource center disputed Rick’s claim.

The Problem Solver believes Rick confused the agency for the Illinois School for the Deaf, which had, in fact, booked the company for a January 2009 trip. The Illinois School for the Deaf subsequently proved it paid Sleepless in the City for its services.

Madigan’s lawsuit also alleges that in July 2008, Sleepless in the City accepted a $132,233 down payment from a special events company to provide buses for the Ryder Cup golf tournament in Louisville. The lawsuit says the bus company failed to provide any buses on one day of the tournament and provided only partial services on other days.

Madigan said the company refused to issue a partial refund of $92,000 when the company requested it.

The attorney general has asked the court to permanently enjoin the company and Lawrence from engaging in “deceptive and unfair acts.” She seeks restitution for the resource center and the special events company, along with a civil penalty of $100,000 and another $50,000 penalty for each fraudulent act committed.


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