Lehigh County Judge J. Brian Johnson ruled against Timothy H. Sweet and Tina Sweet in the lawsuit brought against them in 2008 by Attorney General Tom Corbett.
The couple is permanently barred from working with international students and must pay more than $178,000 in restitution to various victims, including numerous host families and schools throughout the Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania and civil penalties. To make sure funds might be available at such time as judgement was made, Judge Johnson froze USE’s funds after the lawsuit was brought against the Sweet’s.
Tim and Tina Sweet, of 1746 Roth Avenue, South Whitehall Township in Pennsylvania, ran the foreign student exchange organization United Student Exchange. They were sued for illegally diverting funds intended to pay for school tuitions and support for the students. Indeed, Attorney General Corbett claimed that
“The Sweets and their business – United Student Exchange – took advantage of families hoping to send their children to America to enjoy once-in-a-lifetime educational experiences,” Corbett said. “Instead, visiting students and their U.S. host families were met with empty promises and disappointment – left to fend for themselves by a business that claimed to be ‘uniting the world with Christ, one student at a time’.”
Most of the exchange students the Sweet’s scammed were from South-Korea. Upon arrival none of the Christian families promised were available and the exchange students were crammed together in so-called temporary homes. Background checks were not performed nor did host-families recruited after the students arrived complete application forms. In fact, the Sweet’s deceived new host-families into taking in exchange students.
If complaints were made about housing conditions, the host-families or lack of supervision, USE threatened to return the exchange students to their home countries.
United Student Exchange was not registered with either the Pennsylvania Department of State nor the federal J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa program, supervised by the U.S. State Department and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
Judge Johnson concluded that the Sweets broke the law by using deceptive advertising. The couple has three months to pay the restitution and fines.
Attorney General Corbett said that violations include:
- Failure to pay host families, as promised.
- Failure to pay school tuition, as promised.
- Misrepresentation of support to students and host families.
- Contract terms in violation of Consumer Protection Law.