Undercover prom sting targets limos

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Inspectors from Portland City Hall busted two high school proms this weekend in an undercover sting operation.

The inspectors weren't looking for teenagers drinking alcohol or doing drugs.

They targeted the limos and party buses the teenagers rented for the big dance that didn't have the required safety permits.

The city's primary inspector, Frank Dufay, said his team caught one company illegally picking up passengers at two proms Saturday night.

Super Stretch Limos of Ridgefield, Washington will be charged with operating without a city permit after undercover photographs documented drivers picking up students from Reynolds and Wilsonville High Schools in the Pearl District and on PSU's campus, respectively.

This is the third time Portland inspectors fined Super Stretch.

And Super Stretch doesn't care.

"I'll probably fight them forever," said the company's owner, Craig Bladow. "The City of Portland can only branch out so far."

Bladow won his appeal the last time the city fined him in November because the judge ruled there was no proof he was transporting paying clients and not family, Dufay said.

Bladow's company is based in Ridgefield, Wash., where he keeps his fleet of limos.

He argues Portland does not have the right to regulate his business when it's based far outside city limits and does not even originate trips there, either.

He says the students his company picked up from the Pearl District started and ended their night in Fairview, Ore.

Portland ordinance requires for-hire transportation operators to obtain permits for vehicles, drivers and the company itself.

The permits require vehicle safety inspections, driver background checks and insurance checks, among other requirements.

Bladow says he'll fight Saturday's violations by arguing he's simply conducting interstate commerce.

He is registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation although there is no safety inspection information available.

Super Stretch does have one recorded violation from the federal government: He says that's from a traffic stop where he was not carrying his medical identification card.

City of Portland inspectors acknowledge they do not target limo companies dropping off or picking up passengers in Portland if they are based far beyond the Northwest, such as a California company taking passengers to a concert.

It's also only against city ordinance to pick up passengers - not drop them off.

Inspectors focus enforcement on regional providers and repeat offenders, according to a city inspector.