Bus company owner cited after unlicensed driver transported Wauconda students

In the wake of a group of students being transported to Wauconda Middle School by an unlicensed bus driver, the company’s owner has been cited for allowing the employee to make trips, Lake County officials said Saturday.

Just after midnight on March 28, a Lake County Sheriff’s deputy stopped a bus in North Barrington for improper lane usage. The bus was traveling from O’Hare International Airport to Wauconda Middle School with 50 children aboard returning from a field trip.

Authorities said the driver, Santos Popoca-Mendez, 44, did not have a commercial or any driver’s license. Popoca-Mendez, a Milwaukee resident, was subsequently charged with driving without a valid driver’s license.

During the investigation, the deputy found the bus company, Milwaukee-based M & M Tours, LLC, is owned by Brian Popoca, 24, a relative of Popoca-Mendez’s, sheriff’s Deputy Chief Chris Covelli said Saturday.

The deputy contacted Brian Popoca, “who stated he was aware that Santos needed a CDL and that even though Santos did not have a CDL, Brian allowed Santos to operate the bus for the last two years anyway. The deputy mailed Brian a citation for allowing an unauthorized person to operate a commercial vehicle,” Covelli said.

Brian Popoca had not yet responded to a request to comment as of Saturday afternoon.

The students were driven to Wauconda Middle School by an employee of a local towing agency.

Popoca-Mendez was also charged with improper lane usage, no Interstate Fuel Tax Act sticker and operating a vehicle that was overweight for its registration.

Daily Herald Staff Writer Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.

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