FORT MYERS, Fla. - Call for Action is tracking down a charter bus company that took $18,000 from Ave Maria University, this time in Virginia. WINK News has uncovered the company Charter Bus R Us is taking money again and they're making promises in Virginia about paying Ave Maria back.
Ave Maria told WINK News Call for Action Investigator Genevieve Judge they have not received a single cent back. Then students at a high school in Virginia also got stuck without a bus they had already paid for. So WINK News teamed up with TV station WJLA in Washington, DC to try and find either bus or a buck or two to pay all these kids back.
Call for Action told you back in January about the Ave Maria students who paid $18,000 to hire Charter Bus R Us to get them to the Right to Life march in Washington, D.C. The buses never came and the school forked over another $25,000 to hire a company out of Orlando.
"I was completely shocked. I couldn't believe someone would take advantage of us and take our money like that," said Ave Maria student Jennifer Davidson in January.
Now, a track team from Gaithersburg, Maryland that thought it was headed to Duke University is just running out of patience.
"They never came. Basically they just left us hanging," said Firebirds Club track team coach Stephen Leacock.
Charter Bus R Us in based in Virginia, not that far from the Gaithersburg team. WJLA reporter Kris Van Kleave tried address, after address, after address, to track down the owners. He found nothing but locked doors and empty offices but in the process, when WJLA got the owner on the phone, she said she's playing the Ave Maria students back one month at a time.
That made WINK News especially curious since Charter Bus R Us first claimed Ave Maria's buses were cancelled because the school didn't pay, even though the $18,000 check had already cleared the bank. So WINK News wanted to know which version was true and where Ave Maria's money was.
WINK News called Charter Bus R Us. At two numbers we left messages and one number was disconnected. But in a statement to WINK News from Ave Maria University, the Chief Financial Officer, Eugene Munin, sent a statement that said: "Charter Bus R Us accepted payment of $18,000.49 from Ave Maria University and refused to provide the agreed-upon bus service. As of today's date, Charter Bus R Us has not returned any portion of this payment to Ave Maria University. Ave Maria University is working with local law enforcement agencies in Virginia to collect the funds due to it."
WINK News also uncovered a new southwest Florida connection. On Charter Bus R Us' website, it connects you to their Facebook page which is now under the name "Bus Trip Ticket Charter Buses Motor Coaches Party Buses USA," taking you to the website, "Bus Trip Ticket" based in Fort Myers but with a Washington, DC phone number.
WINK News also reached out to the Florida, Maryland and Virginia attorney general's office. Virginia and Maryland have received complains against the company.
"For someone to basically rob you of $6,000 to $8,000, it's hard to fathom," said Leacock.
Charter Bus R Us is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau and they have an F rating with the BBB with 11 total complaints in the last three years.