2010 Aug 10: Former host mother accused of welfare fraud

This article is number two in the series about Donnapha Kuppatikasem and her host mother Laura Ely. As with the previous article, this one was originally aired on WWMT.com (Newschannel 3) but can no longer be found on their site. This, too, was found on dreamindemon.com and has been copied to this blog.

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WESTMICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3)
DonnaphaKuppatikasem, nick-named Tak,is determined to become a doctor, but now she’s in a fight to stay in the U.S. until she can finish her medical degree.Sadly,thatdreammay be crushed. Tak’s former host mother, Laura Ely,is accused of draining Tak’s savings account.Thataccountwassupposedto be used to pay for tuition.Without the money, and without being in school, Tak could be deported.On TuesdayNewschannel 3 sat down to speak with Tak about her struggle to stay in the U.S.”At first I didn’t believe that she did it,” said Tak.Tak says she couldn’t believe that her host mother would steal from her.

“I lived with her for three and a half years and I trust her,” said Tak, “so she pretty much like a second mom to me.”

The Committee for Safety of Foreign Exchange Students says that Tak’s case is not one of a kind.

“Exchange students are commonly extorted monies more than we know,” said Danielle Grijalva, Director of CSFES.

Tak says bank records show that Ely took at least $57,000 from her and her family.

“As of right now, everything we had, it’s gone,” said Tak.

Now staying with long-time friends, Tak is trying to figure out what to do next. She’s already earned more than 60 college credit hours, but now tuition that should have been paid for is past due and WMU says if she doesn’t start making payments by September 7th she could be deported.

Despite her setbacks, Tak says she’s trying not to be angry.

“If she, as an alleged victim of extortion, and if she is forced to be repatriated back to her home country through no fault of her own, that’s a huge injustice in and of itself,” said Grijalva.

WMU says they’ve already eliminated $1,100 in late fees and credited Tak with $6,200 more for tuition from her spring semester, but she still owes more than $11,000 that she doesn’t have because it was stolen from her.

“It’s going to be the end of my dream, I cannot do that without this money,” said Tak.

If Tak doesn’t pay $2,800 by September 7th her student visa will expire and she will be deported. She will also lose all her college credits and will not be eligible for another visa for ten years.

After five years in the U.S. she’ll have to go back to Thailand and start saving money all over again.

A fund has been set up to help Tak pay for tuition, you can donate at the Citizen’s Bank in Colon. The account is under Tak’s full name, Donnapha Kuppatikasem.

The Citizen’s Bank in Colon is at 121 E. State Street, Colon, MI. The phone number there is 269-432-3125.

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