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Numerous complaints have surfaced about so-called limo companies operating locally.
Jacque DeLoach of Hahnville can't put into words how she felt as she watched the FOX 8 Defenders investigation last month on a local consumer's wedding day disaster:
"That's what I'm so upset about right now," said Deloach, "is that it's still happening."
Our first story detailed how a local bride and groom thought they were all set for their big day.
"I'm in my dress you know. Makeup is on, and I'm calling and talking to this guy, and I'm just crying because my family isn't going to make it to my wedding," said the bride-to-be who asked us not to identify her by name.
The $800 ‘white' limo bus that she paid for up-front and reserved through Louisiana Limousine Inc. to transport their immediate families to the ceremony and reception never showed up.
In its place was a red and black school bus with the website www.badbuses.com in big letters on the side.
When Jackie DeLoach saw the report, it brought back bad memories.
"When he showed up and walked off that bus, I said this isn't what I ordered, and he told me well, this is what you got," said DeLoach.
In 2011, DeLoach reserved a ‘luxury party bus' for her daughter's high school homecoming dance in St. Charles Parish.
"It was 36 kids - 36 kids," DeLoach explained.
She found it through the website partybusnow.com.
"They were based out of Florida, but according to their website, they had a location here in New Orleans," she said.
Her contract was for six hours at a cost of just over $2,000. DeLoach said she had ordered a luxury travel bus.
"What pulled up was an outdated school bus. It had to be retired from a school or something. It was an old school bus, old yellow and black school bus," she said.
Even more shocking was the messages across the bus. "Badbuses.com, New Orleans trash," said DeLoach. "Only in New Orleans. It was awful, awful!"
DeLoach wasn't comfortable with the teenagers boarding the bus, but says she had no other way at the last minute to get 36 kids from Hahnville, to dinner in the French Quarter and back to St. Charles Parish for their high school dance.
The wrong vehicle wasn't the only issue. She says the driver demanded more than the balance of $1540 that was laid out in the contract. "$18,000 in cash," she said.
The homecoming transportation nightmare only went downhill from there. DeLoach says the driver never made it to their first destination for a pre-dance dinner in New Orleans.
"My daughter calls me in hysterics. He dropped those kids off 10 blocks away from Margaritaville (restaurant), and they were walking down the sidewalk in New Orleans and had no idea where they had to go."
Eventually, the teens made it to their dance.
DeLoach filed a formal complaint with the Louisiana Public Service Commission, which regulates motor carriers like limos and buses. The LA PSC investigation found that Partybusnow "brokered arrangements to Bourbon Street Limo." And from there, Bourbon Street Limo "brokered the job to Ball Entertainment."
The PSC found that "none of the companies involved - Partybusnow, Bourbon Street Limo or Ball Entertainment - had authority to transport passengers. "
And neither did the red and black "badbus" that showed up for the local couple's wedding day in our initial FOX 8 Defenders limo investigation.
Essentially, neither one of these old school buses was licensed to operate in Louisiana.
In 2011, Ball Entertainment was fined $1,000. Fast-forward nearly three years, and the PSC confirms the fine has "not been collected."
A commission spokesperson says the fine has not been collected because they were unable to contact or locate a "Chad Baxter," an officer or manager of Ball Entertainment.
But FOX 8 talked to Baxter by phone in June. He explained he didn't pay the fine because he "didn't do the job." He was adamant that the black and yellow school bus was not his. Baxter said he accepted the job initially, but because Partybusnow and Bourbon Street Limo had a "conflict with the payment," he decided he would not do the job. That information is conflicting with the information laid out in the PSC's investigation.
Both of the buses in our investigations had badbuses.com on the side.
FOX 8 located what appears to be the same red and black school bus that showed up on the local couple's wedding day at a location along 4th Street in Marrero
The facade of the building says "limousine service."
When FOX 8 called the number listed, we were never able to speak with a manager or owner.
"That's what I told the Louisiana Public Service Commission three years ago. It's gonna' take kids [getting] severely hurt for them to open their eyes and see that they need to stop this," said DeLoach. "They need to stop this. What happens if that happens? What do the parents do?"
"The consumer has a right to expect value for what money they put into it," said Eric Skrmetta, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner for District 1. "And unfortunately, consumers are put in a position at that moment. Well, what else are they gonna do?"
However, Skrmetta says the commission is limited to civil and administrative remedies.
"Even if a company is not registered with the Public Service Commission, we are going to investigate it," he said. "If we cannot accomplish the goals that we need to do through the civil and administrative process, we will be working with the district attorneys and law enforcement to effect criminal charges. We've done it before in small moving cases."
"There's nothing that can.. There's no restitution that they can give you if something awful happens to your kids," said DeLoach. "So what are they waiting on?"
When FOX 8 reached out to Bourbon Street Limos, a dispatcher said the company went out of business. When we asked about badbuses.com, he hung up the phone.
As for partybusnow.com, a manager says they're under new ownership, and he was unaware of our findings.
FOX8 is not finished with this Defenders investigation.
We still have many questions, and we're digging to find out who's behind badbuses.com and the 4th Street location in Marrero.
In the meantime, if you want to book a limo or limo bus, it's easy to find out who's licensed on the Louisiana Public Service Commission's website. Plus, every licensed vehicle should be cleared marked with a LA PSC number that serves as that vehicle's identity.
Let us know if you've experienced something similar to the information we've laid out in these limo investigations. Call the FOX 8 Defenders, staffed with volunteers with the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397.
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