Fort Payne Students Scammed By Prom Night Charter Bus Rental

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Some Fort Payne parents and students hired a charter bus to ensure safe transportation for about 40 juniors and seniors on prom night.

It never showed, and they lost more than $2,000.

WHNT News 19 took action to investigate the charter bus company, and it appears it does not actually exist.

Several Fort Payne families hired a charter bus to take 38 students to a Chattanooga restaurant for dinner before prom.

"They're all sitting at our rec center where we have our prom, looking for a ride to Chattanooga that did not show," Superintendent Jim Cunningham said.

One parent said the company is Charter Dispatch, out of Birmingham.

A Google search found the company has several websites, which indicates they provide buses, vans, and limousines around the world.

The websites share a phone number with an (888) area code.

A Google search of that number found websites for a few other businesses sharing the same number, including a collection agency--which has several online complaints against it--as well as a website claiming to sell guitars.

The musical instrument website was not functioning, but WHNT News 19 discovered an archived copy of a contact page which lists a Nevada address.

The About Us section of the Charter Bus website provides no address or any other information about where the company is located.

There are other websites with complaints about the company failing to provide transportation for others who paid for services, including a wedding party in Nevada whose bus never showed.

The website for the Better Business Bureau in Northern Nevada and the Lake Tahoe Basin lists six complaints closed in the past 12 months, and gave the company an F for Delivery Issues and Problems with Service.

Finally, WHNT News 19 discovered a Desist and Refrain Order from the State of California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency Department of Corporations.

That order is from February 2009, but the Fort Payne families did not know about these problems.

One parent said they lost $2,400.

The parents and school officials did not want to ruin the kids' night, but were worried about kids taking a dozen cars to Chattanooga to make their dinner reservations.

"If they decide at the last minute that we're going to do this, now they've got to find rides, and they're probably not going to go slow, because they're behind, they're late," the Superintendent said.

Cunningham said the Fort Payne Schools transportation director arranged for a school bus and drive to take the kids, and the parents paid for all associated costs.

Superintendent Cunningham said the schools would not provide buses for these type events in the future.

"I've been in the school business 32 years and I've never heard of this before," he said.

"This is very unordinary, but again, we didn't want to ruin their night, we had the means to help them, and decided we would go ahead and help them with this situation."

Cunningham said the best news is all of the students who attended prom were safe at the end of the night.

"Students were very well behaved, looked very nice, so if this is our only blemish, we feel very fortunate."

If you have a consumer problem, call our Better Business Bureau WHNT News 19 Consumer Action Line.

The local number is 256-850-0719, or you can call the toll free number at 1-866-94-BBB-19.