UPDATE: a first conviction has been made in the prosecution of two Paterson, New Jersey, school bus firms that were accused of endangering students by employing felons as drivers, using dangerous vehicles, and other offenses.
A Follow-up, Perhaps?
New Jersey’s solicitor general, Matthew J. Platkin, stated that 59-year-old Henry Rhodes admitted last week in Newark’s state Superior Court that he misled to school districts about the reliability of the buses and the qualifications of the drivers employed by both organizations.
Authorities claimed the objective was to maintain lucrative busing contracts in the counties of Essex, Hudson, Passaic, and Union at whatever cost.
Platkin claims that once A-1 Elegant Tours, its owner Shelim Khalique, and its manager Rhodes were indicted by a state grand jury, they went so far as to start a new firm that engaged in similar crimes.
Rhodes, in the end, walked away with a good bargain.
He admitted to two counts of conspiracy and two counts of theft by deceit in exchange for a four-year state prison term, of which he is only likely to serve a small portion before becoming parole eligible.
Platkin added that Rhodes committed to staying away from conducting business with New Jersey “or any of its administrative or political subdivisions” for a period of 10 years.
Khalique, the Wayne, New Jersey bus company owner whose case is still pending, is the current focus. Since that Rhodes is likely to testify for the state against him, will he also enter a plea?
A-1 Elegant “used multiple drivers who did not have legitimate commercial driver’s licenses or requisite endorsements, [and] had suspended licenses, and/or criminal records,” Platkin said last week.
He said that A-1 used the services of more than 30 drivers with criminal records, including a sex offender.
The solicitor general mentioned that one of the drivers had an accident in Newark while transporting students with special needs and had to be revived with Narcan.
A-1 “failed to keep mandatory fingerprints, background check, and drug-testing records,” Platkin said. The business also hired employees with felony convictions and neglected its fleet.
State officials claimed that one morning in Paterson after students had been dropped off, investigators doing surprise inspections found nearly every bus to be in such grave violation that they confiscated them. They claimed that in 2018, A-1 and its drivers were cited 22 times in the city by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
According to the authorities, the corporation would sometimes avoid MVC inspections by rerouting unlicensed drivers away from inspection areas and having them retain buses overnight at their houses.
“It is brutally evident that the operators of this organization lost their moral compass, placing profit over safety,” NJ State Police Supt. Col. Patrick J. Callahan said at one point.
Yet, it wasn’t the end of it.
After the initial indictment, American Star acquired all of A-1 Elegant’s assets and personnel. This apparently includes Rhodes, who has moved into a managerial role.
The group was apprehended once more after an American Star driver blew a stop sign in River Edge, where authorities discovered that the driver was not only unlicensed but also facing trial for prostitution patronage.
The focus of the state’s investigation swiftly shifted to American Star. Platkin claims that the company deceived to school districts about the credentials of some of its employees, some of whom had criminal records.
Khalique, who was reelected president of Paterson’s largest Bangladeshi mosque late last year, is all the rage right now.
Khalique is also involved in a second election fraud case out of Paterson that is currently pending, so he is no stranger to the legal system.