The owners of a school bus company based in Essex County hired unqualified drivers, including individuals with substance abuse problems, failed to conduct background checks for employees, operated unsafe buses, and provided false information to school districts to hide these violations, according to charges announced Tuesday by Acting Attorney General Andrew Bruck.

The defendants, initially charged in October, used the false representations to obtain government contracts worth millions, according to the announcement.

A grand jury on Tuesday indicted Ahmed Mahgoub, 63, and his wife, Faiza Ibrahim, 48, both of East Hanover, and their company on charges of conspiracy, theft by deception, false representation for a government contract, tampering with public records or information, and falsifying or tampering with records. They're also charged with misconduct by a corporate official.

Their company, F&A Transportation, has also done business as Smart Union and Unity Transportation.

"Parents want to know their children are safe when they get on the bus to go to school each day," Bruck said. "We will not tolerate the type of flagrant and widespread safety violations alleged here, involving unfit drivers as well as unsafe buses."

According to Bruck's office, the defendants knowingly hired drivers who did not hold the required license endorsements or a valid commercial driver's license. They also allegedly falsified inspection forms to indicate that their buses consistently passed inspections.

In February and August of 2019, nearly every F&A bus failed inspection on both occasions when legitimately inspected by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

An employee of F&A in February 2019 used heroin in the company's parking lot in East Orange and later crashed the bus he was driving, with 12 special-needs children on board, into the wall of a building, authorities said. Police had to use Narcan to revive the employee.

The defendants falsely represented the qualifications of their drivers and aides, Bruck's office added.

When audited by MVC, just nine out of F&A's 51 driver files were found to be complete, the office said. About half of the drivers had expired or no abstracts on file, and a couple dozen had expired or no physical exams.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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