A bus company defrauded New Jersey’s public transit corporation out of more than $15 million by underreporting trips its buses missed and billing for trips it never took, according to a civil complaint announced Monday.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the state has joined a whistleblower lawsuit against Hoboken-based Academy Bus LLC, which bills itself as the largest privately owned and operated transportation company in the country.
The complaint alleges Academy failed to report tens of thousands of missed trips over a six-year period ending in late 2018 to avoid assessments under its contract with New Jersey Transit.
Most of the trips were on routes serving the Hudson County waterfront, including service to New York City. Riders were often left delayed or stranded.
The lawsuit alleges the company violated state false claims and unjust enrichment laws, and seeks damages and civil penalties. Messages were left Monday at Academy’s headquarters and with an attorney representing the company.
Academy operates charter and tour buses in the eastern U.S. between Boston and Miami, according to its website. The complaint alleges the NJ Transit missed trips were the result of Academy shifting drivers from local routes to its more profitable charter routes.
According to the complaint, Academy bills NJ Transit roughly $12 million annually while NJ Transit collects the fares from its routes. Under the contract, NJ Transit would deduct an assessment for each missed trip.
To avoid the assessments, Academy kept two sets of numbers, the complaint alleged: One tracked the actual number of trips missed, and the second reflected a significantly lower number that would be reported to NJ Transit.
In one text message exchange contained in the complaint, two employees discussed reducing the number of missed trips from 1,800 to 700. One allegedly texted, “Bro bro. It’s 1800 missed, really — we are gambling with this, huh?” Academy eventually reported a little more than 800 missed trips for that month, according to the complaint.
The complaint also alleges Academy defrauded NJ Transit by billing for trips its buses hadn’t taken.
In an email Monday, an NJ Transit spokesman said the corporation couldn’t comment on the pending litigation.