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AG: School bus company didn’t vet drivers, do drug tests

October 8, 2020 GMT

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A northern New Jersey school bus company operated unsafe buses, used unqualified drivers and failed to perform drug tests or criminal background checks, New Jersey’s attorney general said in charges announced Thursday.

Ahmed Mahgoub and his wife, Faiza Ibrahim, face charges including conspiracy, theft by deception and tampering with public records. Their company, F&A Transportation of East Orange, had contracts worth more than $3 million with public school districts in Essex, Passaic, Morris and Union counties between 2015 and 2020 — when the alleged crimes occurred, according to authorities.

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In 2019, a driver operating a bus for F&A faced criminal charges after crashing in Newark while carrying a dozen special needs children aged 5 to 13. The children were unharmed, but police said they used an opioid-overdose antidote to revive the driver, who appeared to be under the influence of a narcotic.

Mahgoub later said in a television interview that the 57-year-old driver had told him about a medical issue related to a diabetic condition and that her medication did not work well.

The criminal complaint alleged the company knowingly hired drivers who didn’t have valid commercial driver’s licenses or who had criminal histories, misrepresented those facts to the school districts and falsified documents to hide the fact that their buses had failed safety inspections.

“No parent should have to worry about the condition of their child’s school bus or question whether their child’s bus driver might be a felon or someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement.

An audit of the company’s driver files by the state Motor Vehicle Commission found that only nine of 51 files were complete with current driver abstracts, physical exams and driver licenses, according to the attorney general’s office.

The attorney general’s office didn’t have information on whether Mahgoub and Ibrahim had retained legal counsel. A call to a number listed for the business in East Orange wasn’t answered Thursday, and a woman answering the phone at another number listed for Mahgoub hung up.

The conspiracy and theft charges, and additional charges of making false representations for a government contract and official misconduct, have maximum prison term of 10 years upon conviction.