Hiring a limo for prom? Check out this story first

Hiring a limo for prom? Check out this story first »Play Video

When you search for prom limo rentals online, the companies listed in Google search results look mostly the same.

You wouldn't be able to tell that many of them are illegal operators.

Out of seven search results on Google, three are doing business illegally in Portland, according to regulators. 

Portland's City Hall inspectors just ordered a limo and party bus rental company called Exquisite Ride to stop doing business after it claims the owner, Donald Messinger, violated a handful of city ordinances.

Regulators say Exquisite Ride is really just a new name for a company they've banned before, Five Star Limousine, according to Kathleen Butler, who heads up City Hall's for-hire transportation permit and enforcement team.

Five Star was operating the party bus when Angie Hernandez, 11, fell out of an emergency exit window and died in September 2012.

Federal investigators found 169 safety and permit violations and banned the company from doing business, as did the City of Portland and State of Washington.

Somehow, a year and a half after Angie's death, Five Star Limousine is the first company you'll see when you do a Google search for Portland prom limos.

What's more -- Five Star's website has an emblem for the City of Portland, a permit number, and a list of safety reasons why the city regulates limos and party buses in the first place.

The website says regulators check driver background and DMV history and inspect vehicles regularly -- that's true, and also exactly what the city accuses Five Star of failing to do.

Butler says her inspectors traced physical addresses and other assets back to Five Star, which the city had already banned, even though it sometimes called itself Exquisite Ride.

Butler also says Exquisite Ride was using non-permitted vehicles, which mean they never passed the city's required safety and mechanical inspection.

KATU tried tracking down Donald Messinger based on four addresses in Oregon and Washington listed in federal, state and city documents tied to Five Star and Exquisite Ride.

A couple at a home in Beaverton claims he moved out last month; a teenager at a home in Vancouver closed the door and did not return; employees at a used car lot said they knew Messinger but had not seen him recently.

Phone calls and voicemails left for Messinger were not returned.

Portland requires vehicle, driver and company permits ensuring adequate insurance, routine safety inspections by city-approved mechanics, and criminal background checks for drivers.

For a list of permitted companies, visit the city's website here.

Watch Dan Cassuto's follow-up story: