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U.S. Couple Charged with Mistreating Korean Students

Posted March. 10, 2008 03:00,   


An American couple is charged with diverting more than $100,000 and mistreating Korean middle and high school students enrolled in a foreign exchange student program that they operate.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett said the state is seeking to freeze the assets of Timothy H. and Tina Sweet of Allentown, who ran United Student Exchange. Authorities have prohibited the couple from bringing in additional students for the next school year. Corbett’s office reportedly handed over to Lehigh County records crucial to the case.

Prosecutors said the Sweets advertised the placement of exchange students in Christian communities with promises of carefully selected host families and placement at private schools.

The program is believed to have 56 students from grades eight to 12, primarily from Korea. Fifty-four of the students are enrolled in Allentown private schools, while the remaining two are attending schools in Kansas and Ohio.

According to the United Student Exchange Web site, the families of exchange students paid a "service fee" of 3,500 dollars to the Sweets for location of a school and host family, and an additional 2,500 dollars for the host families’ expenses. Full payment of all fees was required prior to the students’ arrival in the United States.

Attorney General Corbett said, “Instead, the exchange students and their American host families were met with empty promises and disappointment.”

An officer at a school involved in the case told a newspaper that the Sweets’ program was “a human puppy mill.”

A 17-year-old Korean student told a TV station that the Sweets fed all the Korean students with food stored in the refrigerator for more than a month, and that the students suffered food poisoning.

A resident in the Sweets’ neighborhood said students lived in the couple’s leaky basement without air conditioning.

A member of a former host family said that if a student complained on a Thursday, the Sweets would send the student back to Korea that Saturday.