UI student rebuffed in attempt to retrieve items left on Suburban Express bus

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UI student rebuffed in attempt to retrieve items left on Suburban Express bus

URBANA — A University of Illinois student said she left her backpack, textbooks and laptop on a Suburban Express bus Sunday and hasn't been able to retrieve them.

The University of Illinois Police Department is investigating after the student reported that her belongings had been stolen after her trip from Schaumburg to Urbana.

"She called Suburban Express and was told by a representative of that company — I do not know who exactly she spoke to — to 'never use their service again,'" said police spokesman Pat Wade. "The student submitted a lost-item report via the company's website and has made additional attempts to contact the company via phone and email but has only been told that the company does not intend to take any action."

The student's belongings are valued at $2,075, and her report came in Monday afternoon, Wade said.

"It will be investigated under our normal protocols for theft reports," Wade said.

An attempt to reach Suburban Express by phone Wednesday was unsuccessful. After pressing "4" to speak to an agent, the They Might Be Giants song "Destination Moon" played on repeat, which begins with the lyrics, "Don't bother to call this room. There's nobody here who can pick up."

The theft report comes as Suburban Express and its owner, Dennis Toeppen, face a lawsuit from the Illinois Attorney General's Office, which sued the business last year for alleged discrimination and harassment of his customers.

Toeppen is continuing to negotiate with the state, which is seeking $50,000 per deceptive act or unfair practice, an additional $50,000 per deceptive act or unfair practice committed with the intent to defraud, $10,000 for offenses against people older than 65, and up to $10,000 per defendant for each unlawful act of discrimination.

The lawsuit stems from an email advertisement Suburban Express sent in December 2017 saying its benefits included "Passengers like you. You won't feel like you're in China when you're on our buses."

That led to a swift backlash, apologies and a subpoena from the AG's office to determine whether Suburban Express had violated the Illinois Human Rights Act.

After the lawsuit was filed, then-Attorney General Lisa Madigan said that Suburban Express and Toeppen had been complying with a temporary restraining order requiring the company to remove personally identifying information from its website, stop retaliating against customers for negative reviews and remove language from its contract prohibiting negative reviews.

As negotiations continued, Toeppen's lawyer withdrew from the case in September due to what he said were unpaid fees and a strategic impasse. Another attorney was appointed in October to help Toeppen negotiate a settlement.

Both sides remain mum on the status of talks. Contacted Wednesday, a spokesperson for the attorney general's office referred News-Gazette Media to court records.

Suburban Express also faces lawsuits from its insurance companies, which are seeking declaratory judgments that they correctly denied coverage for damages resulting from the attorney general's lawsuit.

WDWS reporter Tim Ditman contributed to this report.

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