Manager of Two Paterson School Bus Companies Pleads Guilty to Employing Unqualified Drivers and Operating Unsafe Buses


Henry Rhodes enters a plea deal and faces state prison time after allegations of employing drivers without commercial licenses, criminal backgrounds, and in some cases, under the influence of drugs.

Local school bus companies A-1 Elegant Tours Inc. and American Star Transportation are under fire for hiring unqualified drivers and putting students at risk. Today, Henry Rhodes, a manager of both companies, entered a guilty plea for charges relating to these allegations. 

Rhodes is accused of employing drivers without commercial licenses, criminal backgrounds, and in some cases, under the influence of drugs. The charges against the two companies include providing false information to school districts in order to secure contracts to transport students.

Rhodes entered his plea before state Superior Court Judge John Zunic in Essex County. The plea deal marks the first in connection with the cases against the two bus companies. Investigators say that the companies' purposeful obfuscation of the quality of its drivers endangered the lives of school children. 

Multiple drivers were confirmed to be unlawfully driving buses, including two former A-1 Elegant bus drivers who drove buses with one or more children on board while under the influence of narcotics, resulting in a bus crash in Essex County. It was also revealed that the defendants employed over 30 drivers with criminal convictions, including a Megan’s Law registrant.

After A-1 Elegant was indicted in March 2021 and its assets were transferred, a driver for American Star was pulled over by a River Edge police officer on February 21, 2022 because the bus he was operating ran a stop sign. Investigators say the driver was found to be unlicensed and had a pending case for patronizing a prostitute. Further investigation into American Star showed that, as was the case with A-1 Elegant, documents were submitted to school districts certifying that the company’s drivers and aides were properly vetted and licensed as required by state law, when in fact employees who were not properly licensed, and in some cases had criminal backgrounds, were transporting the students.

As part of his plea agreement, Rhodes will be barred from doing business with the State of New Jersey or any of its administrative or political subdivisions for a decade. Prosecutors will be recommending Rhodes be sentenced to two concurrent four-year terms in state prison as a third-degree offender.

The investigation was a collaboration between the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability.

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