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Texas Company Paid Extremist Group $20 million for Operation Lone Star Busing

A cache of documents related to Texas’ Operation Lone Star reveals that state contractor Wynne Transportation, LLC, paid over $20 million to an antigovernment extremist group to bus migrants in “inhumane” conditions. The documents also reveal the tangled web of limited liability companies that Texas pays to bus immigrants from its border with Mexico.

A contractor for the state of Texas appears to have paid millions for busing immigrants and asylum seekers to antigovernment extremist organization Mayhem Solutions Group, according to public records and hundreds of invoices Hatewatch obtained. The documents also shed light on the muddled world of state contractors.

Texas awarded Wynne Transportation, LLC, a contract for “transportation management services” that started on Aug. 21, 2020, and ends on Dec. 31, 2024. Texas has spent over $124 million on transporting migrants to sanctuary cities, The Hill reported on Feb. 3. Most of these payments went to Wynne Transportation, LLC, according to a review of the records, which Hatewatch obtained through an information request.

Migrants in Chicago
Migrants exit a bus near a bus station in Chicago after being transported from Texas on Sept. 27, 2023. (Photo by Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

The busing program is part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star,” aimed at slowing down border crossings. Operation Lone Star is steeped in controversy. Wynne Transportation began busing immigrants through MSG in April 2022 and ended its relationship with MSG in April 2023, after Texas required Wynne to reduce costs. MSG did not respond to a request for comment.

David Dillard, a former bus driver contracted by MSG, told ABC News that conditions on the buses were “disgusting and inhuman.” Dillard also told ABC News he received an email that directed him to stop communicating with nongovernmental organizations that aid the immigrants.

The state has paid $124,603,616.19 to bus more than 100,000 immigrants and asylum-seekers to cities such as Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver and Los Angeles as of Jan. 10. This amounts to approximately 2,245 buses year-to-date, with an average of 45 migrants per bus. Taxpayers cover about 99.6% of the total cost. The funds are allocated by the Texas legislature for border security, according to The Hill. The total cost of Project Lone Star is $10 billion, according to a CBS News report. Much of the cost involves paying for state troopers and Texas National Guard members to deploy to the border.

Alleged scam of Lone Star funds

Hatewatch found allegations that scammers convinced Wynne Transportation to send $1.4 million dollars to a false MSG account.

An email Hatewatch obtained through a public records request shows Craig Wilson, MSG’s former chief financial officer, emailed the Texas comptroller with the allegations on Apr. 27, 2023.

“MSG is owed approximately $1.4 million in unpaid invoices for services rendered,” Wilson wrote in a letter he attached to the email.

Wilson claimed that Wynne Transportation had wired the money to an account “not owned or controlled by MSG. … While our investigation into the matter is continuing, it appears likely that Wynne was the victim of a phishing scam.”

Wilson, who left MSG in July 2023, confirmed to Hatewatch he had sent the email. He said he was unaware of any efforts from the comptroller’s office to investigate MSG’s allegations.

The emails Hatewatch obtained show an official from the Texas Comptroller’s Statewide Contract Management Statewide Procurement Division forwarded the email to Wynne Transportation on April 28, 2023, and followed up on May 15, 2023.

Mark Halvorsen, a Wynne representative who worked for an apparent Wynne subsidiary named U.S. Crew Change, responded on June 12, 2023, according to the email cache.

Wynne had “an outstanding balance with [MSG] of less than $1 million dollars and a disputed invoice on $454,000.00 where their computer network was hacked, and a payment was re-directed to another source that they requested during this hack,” Halvorsen said.

Wilson disputed this claim.

MSG had “chosen the path of litigation to resolve this matter,” Halvorsen continued. We are still making monthly payments to Mayhem for the monies that we legitimately owe them but will not pay anything towards the disputed payment until this makes its way through the court system.” 

Hatewatch was unable to find court records related to the litigation.

Halvorsen’s email also revealed that Wynne paid MSG “over $20+ million dollars on their contract with us.”

Halvorsen did not respond to a request for comment via phone.

LLC octopus

Another company, Avalon Motor Coaches, LLC, purchased Wynne Transportation, LLC, on April 11, 2023, according to the Federal Register. Wynne Transportation is involved in lawsuits regarding its busing of immigrants from the Texas border. Avalon CEO Jeff Bush told local New York outlet PIX11  he “did not acquire the company’s contract with the state of Texas,” and his company does “not transport immigrants from the border.”

Bush did not respond to Hatewatch’s request for comment.

Hatewatch first asked contacted Kevin Lyons, a spokesperson for the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts office, for comment on the sale in early February. Lyons said he was not aware of the sale, and referred Hatewatch to his office’s contract with Wynne Transportation, LLC and Transportation Solutions, Inc.

On March 26, Lyons gave Hatewatch a statement that Wynne Transportation, LLC, had provided a statement in February saying: “Wynne Transportation Holdings, LLC sold the property and buses for Wynne Transportation, LLC to Avalon Motorcoaches, LLC, of California. Wynne Transportation Holdings, LLC still holds all rights to the Wynne Transportation, LLC name and operates various contracts under this name including the contract with the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).” The statement also said Wynne Transportation, LLC, still exists in Delaware.

When asked if the Texas comptroller’s office had concerns about their busing subcontractor selling its buses, Lyons responded: “Contract is for services (operating buses) and not access to specific assets (the buses themselves).”

Holding companies do not typically offer goods and services. Some, called holding-operating companies, do. Hatewatch called numerous Wynne Transportation phone numbers to ask for comment, including ones found on the website listed on the contract in the Texas database, and in emails between the Texas comptroller’s office and Wynne employees. At the other end of each call was either no response, or an Avalon Motor Coaches, LLC, recording.

The State of Texas Procurement and Contract Management guide says that in the event of a sale, the “contractor of record must send the agency a letter stating the circumstances of the buyout or sale. If the contractor has already ceased operating as a separate business, the agency should obtain a letter indicating the sale of the company.”

The guide further states that the government agency should then either amend the purchase order or the contract. The guide is less clear on what happens when a company sells its property and equipment, but not its name.

Lyons said purchase “orders are sent to, services are rendered by, invoices are received from, and payment is made to, Wynne Transportation, LLC. Because our contractor is Wynne Transportation, LLC, we have not amended the contract to indicate another entity.”

Photo illustration by SPLC

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