Tag Archives: #BackgroundCheck

Host family nudism

Exchange students are expected to adapt to their host-family’s culture and try to follow house rules, however, there are limits. Some exchange student representatives do a terrible job when vetting a potential host-family. Or, perhaps, they are lied to.

In this example an exchange student asks what to do in the case of host-family nudism. Answers range from disbelief to telling the exchange student to get out of there as soon as possible. I tend to agree with the person who thinks that the host-family should put their nudism on hold while hosting. If they are unable to do that, then they should not be a host-family. Oddly enough, nudism is an issue that turns up with host-families and/or exchange students. When in doubt, always use caution in how to share your personal culture. Nudism is rare in most countries.

I am staying with my exchange student and her family in Germany. She and I are both 16 and she has a 9 and 21 year old sisters and both her parents. All her family are nudists. I told them that I don’t feel comfortable with them being nude all the time but they said that it is unhealthy to be insecure about your body. The dad is at work most of the time so they say it’s all okay because we’re all girls.

They don’t have locks on the bathroom doors and when I’m having a shower they just walk in to brush their hair or clean their teeth and they see me naked. My exchange student and I have to share a bed and of course she sleeps naked. They said they are borrowing another bed from their friends but they are still waiting another week. They only wash clothes once or twice a month because they only need them for going out. I have to wear the one dress to school for a whole week because of it.

They’re really nice people and everything but I am staying with them for three months and don’t want to feel uncomfortable staying with them for so long. I don’t want to report them to my supervisor teacher or anything like that because I don’t want them to get in trouble. What else can I do to stop having to feel so uncomfortable around them?

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James P Pellow, CEO at CIEE

I am fascinated by the way people who hold power manage to get out of trouble practically scot-free. Take James P Pellow, President and Chief Executive Officer of CIEE (Council On International Educational Exchange).

Steve Fishman, a journalist with New York Magazine, wrote an article about the corruption at St. John’s University, New York. At her trial, Cecilia Chang admitted to defrauding St. John’s University. One of the notes she left, claims St. John’s was using her as a scape-goat to cover the crimes of others at the university.

Investigations uncovered the gifts she gave to several of her colleagues at St. John’s. One of those who profited by Chang’s employment was President Father John Harrington who in turn mentored the above James Pellow.  Crisis Magazine reported that:

… Pellow also received no-interest loans. According to the 2009 IRS 990 form, a loan of $300,000 was made to Pellow. This loan was declared to the IRS the same year that Pellow made a total compensation package of $745,445. A year later, in 2010, Pellow made $448,268 in base salary, $150,000 in bonus compensation, $90,282 in “other” compensation, $16,500 in deferred compensation and $47,457 in non-taxable benefits for a total compensation package of $752,507 for the year. Pellow also declared on the IRS form that he served as a director on one other board. According to Forbes, Pellow has served as a director of SAVVIS, Inc, where in 2010, he earned $75,000 in fees, $59,987 in stock awards for a total compensation package of $134,987. This was in addition to the more than $750,000 from St. John’s. Forbes also lists Pellow as a director at Cryo-Cell International, Inc.

It turns out that Pellow’s salary and bonuses by far exceeded those of similar positions at other Catholic universities. In fact, men his age and of his position seldom see these kinds of payments no matter the work-place. The way these men benefited from Chang’s presence at the university smells of questionable ethics. I wonder why others weren’t arrested along with her.

James P Pellow seems to have come out of the entire affair unscathed. Leaving St. John’s for CIEE was probably a wise move. Choosing to hire a man with Pellow’s alleged background makes no sense for a firm that touts its non-profit and volunteer profile. With all the noise surrounding the St. John’s findings, CIEE must have known about Pellow’s connection to the university. They are obliged to perform background checks on all of their potential employees.

Even though law makers decide something is legal, a particular action can still be corrupt. Distribution of and the effects of the use of power is something that interests me. Mainly that is because of  how much people in power get away with. Often without a single negative effect. At least if they are Caucasian and male.

Japanese exchange student finds her host-parents dead

There are situations that no exchange student should need to face. Finding host-parents who have died in a murder-suicide crime is obviously one of those. Exchange organizations often deny any responsibility in cases like this. In this case, the domestic turbulence seems to have been an ongoing problem. What happened during the background check? Carol Hopkins at The Oakland Press reported on the findings in this case April 2, 2016.

Pictured is the home on Kelsey Boulevard where an Orion Township couple was found dead in a suspected murder-suicide. Carol Hopkins-The Oakland Press
Pictured is the home on Kelsey Boulevard where an Orion Township couple was found dead in a suspected murder-suicide. Carol Hopkins-The Oakland Press

Mark and Maria-Aurora Renusch were found inside the home, dead from fatal gunshot wounds in what Oakland County Sheriff’s deputies are calling murder-suicide.

The Oakland County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the names…..

A 17-year-old Japanese exchange student who lived at the home found the couple dead, authorities said. Both the man and the woman suffered fatal gunshot wounds.

The girl, who was uninjured, told investigators she heard the couple arguing Thursday night — a situation that had happened before, she told officials…..

Dale and wife arrested for sexual abuse

Miami Herald’s David Ovalle and Kyra Gurney did an outstanding job in their July 07, 2017, article in describing sexual grooming. Dale Leary and his wife Claudia Leary hosted female exchange students in their home in 8531 Sw 185 Terrace, Cutler Bay, Florida, for several years. The exchange organization was CCI Greenheart. Dale Leary divorced Claudia so he could marry their exchange student. Claudia lived with Dale until she and Dale tried to kill themselves.

The police believe there are many more victims of the couple. If you, or someone you know, lived with Dale and Claudia Leary in Cutler Bay, Florida, please do not hesitate to contact the police at Miami-Dade Crime Stoppers at 305-471-TIP. Some tips are subject to a $1,000 reward.

Dale Leary and Marta San Jose Aranda. From San Jose Aranda’s public FB page. Edited to show only the couple.

Dale Leary died of apparent suicide this week as investigators widened a probe into the middle-aged marketing and tech executive’s relations with a string of young female foreign-exchange students he hosted in his Cutler Bay home.

He had married one student from Spain just after she turned 18 then, detectives believe, coaxed his new wife into luring her even younger teenage relative across the Atlantic into a web of sex acts and porn. It all happened while his longtime first wife, a Miami-Dade schools administrator, remained living in the home.

… Detectives believe there might be numerous victims and are asking them to come forward.

… Detectives are now trying to figure out whether Leary’s ex-wife, Miami-Dade schools administrator Claudia Leary, 47, participated in or aided in the sexual abuse of any students.

… the investigation has also turned to Chicago-based CCI Greenheart, a nonprofit that cleared students to live with the Learys — even though Dale Leary had a felony conviction for sexually assaulting a woman in Coral Gables in 1985. So far, authorities in Miami-Dade have not gotten a response from a subpoena sent for records from CCI…

From all appearances, Dale and Claudia Leary seemed the ideal hosts for international exchange students.

She was a longtime Miami-Dade schools administrator, he an advertising and tech consultant claiming Fortune 500 companies as clients. Together, they lived in a large four-bedroom house with a manicured lawn in a leafy Cutler Bay neighborhood.

They began hosting Marta San Jose when she was a 16-year-old high school student. She attended Palmetto High. Miami-Dade Police said that after San Jose completed her junior year of high school in 2013, she and Leary flew to Spain to ask her parents to allow her to stay in Miami for her senior year. They agreed.

… Before San Jose’s senior year was done, records show, Leary divorced Claudia and married the teen — just days after she turned 18.

Not long after, San Jose began coming to Leary’s office every day purporting to be an intern, while Claudia remained in their lives, one former co-worker told the Herald. He said no one knew the two had divorced or that Leary had married his visiting student.

Back in Spain, police said, San Jose’s parents had no clue the two had become lovers. The couple later persuaded the parents to allow her sister, 14 at the time, to come visit Miami, too. The younger girl did not come to the U.S. as part of a CCI Greenheart program, the company said.

Leary and San Jose began “manipulating” the underage girl into believing she had been sexually abused by her parents, something that hadn’t actually happened.

San Jose’s relative, now 16, told police the two began to have sex in front of her and asked her to let Leary perform sex acts on her, saying it would help her deal with being a sex-abuse victim. They convinced her to join them in sex acts more than seven times. Another time, the sister told police, they plied her with alcohol before shooting photos of her only in high heels.

The girl later returned to Spain and repeated the abuse allegations against her own parents to authorities there, leading to their arrest. The charges were unfounded and dropped.

Miami-Dade detectives last month arrested San Jose and Leary on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under 16, possession of child pornography, engaging in a sexual act with a familial child and contributing to the delinquency of a child. Detectives seized an array of computers, hard drives, iPhones, cameras, two journals and 11 documents and five folders pertaining to the foreign-exchange students and programs, according to search warrants filed in court.

San Jose remains jailed, in part because she is unable to post bail because she has nowhere to stay. “We’re looking into all aspects of this case, and showing prosecutors that she may be a victim as well,” said Jorge Viera, her defense lawyer.

… a family friend called 911 after finding Leary’s running car in the back of his Cutler Bay house, a hose running from the muffler to the window, sealed with duct taped. Inside the rear passenger area was Dale and Claudia Leary.

Paramedics could not save Dale, while Claudia was rushed to Jackson South Hospital. She remains hospitalized and is expected to survive. Suicide notes were found in the car and house.

With Dale Leary dead, the criminal investigation has shifted to Claudia, an administrator based at the J.R.E. Lee Education Center in South Miami. …

Between January 2010 and October 2011, the State Department received reports that 118 exchange students had been the victims of sexual abuse or harassment, according to a 2012 report from the department’s Inspector General, the most recent data publicly available.

… The Inspector General has pushed, with limited success, to improve background checks for potential hosts.

Leary’s public record, it seems, would have raised an immediate red flag. He was convicted in 1986 of breaking into a home and tying up a woman, sexually assaulting her at gunpoint. Records of his conviction are easily accessible through a $24 Florida Department of Law Enforcement criminal-background search and via Miami-Dade online court records.

CCI Greenheart said hosts get in-person, in-home visits from program coordinators who “regularly communicate with our students to ensure their experience is consistent with our standards.” The hosts are also subjected to “independent third-party background checks.” CCI Greenheart would not identify the company it uses to do background checks.

… Contacted on Thursday, the State Department said it needed more time to answer questions about requiring FBI-based fingerprint searches for host families. A spokesman said in an email that the department monitors exchange programs to ensure they follow existing federal regulations.

You can read the entire article at the Miami Herald

Review of CIEE, Portland USA

This review of CIEE, Portland, USA, was originally posted on March 12, 2016 on yelp.ch by Claudia P.

I’ll be honest and say that if you want to spend a year abroad, for your own sake DO NOT trust this awful organization. I’ll tell you my story and I’ll try to describe what I went through when two years ago I decided to do an exchange year in high school in the US (I’m Italian).

I applied with an organization from my country called youabroad (they were seriously amazing, helpful and cared about the students); the problem here was that for the exchange in the United States they had CIEE as a partner and they were responsible for almost everything, families included.
I lived a nightmare and seriously thought more than once to go back home like my German and Norwegian friends did, because they couldn’t handle the shit CIEE was putting them through. I (and most of my exchange students friends there) had to change family THREE TIMES because of really serious reasons and every single time CIEE not only didn’t help, but made the situation worse. I ended up in North Texas and had to live in a family who’s house was dirtier than any place I’ve ever seen, they didn’t care if we (I shared the room with a german exchange student) ate or not, they didn’t take us anywhere and their 13 y old kid was aggressive and violent among other things. Basically they wanted us to stay with them only to clean everything and babysit their four kids. When we finally managed to change family CIEE made it look like it was our fault and sent us a ”warning letter” saying that if we ever did anything wrong again (what?) they would have sent us to our home country.

After that we lived with the local coordinator for a while who was everything but nice, obviously pissed she had to take care of us. School wasn’t even started yet so we could’ve moved anywhere in the country to a nice family that really cared to live this experience; INSTEAD, she wanted to keep us in the same town so she would’ve got paid. Then, I ended up in a family where the host father was always either drunk or mean to the host mum (or both). The school bus didn’t come where they lived so every morning they would give me a ride at 5.30 am to go to school and I had to ask around random people for a ride home. I don’t even know why the hell they wanted to host someone. A norwegian girl lived with them and had just changed family, they sent me there anyway.

Went back to live with the local coordinator who was seriously having problems with all the students that needed to change families because she found shitty ones. Lived with her for a while and then found a family myself asking around in school (that’s what they told us to do, because they were not capable of finding A SINGLE decent family). I lived with my friend’s family for the rest of the year and slept on a couch in a little room but at least they were nice and treated me like a human being.

In all this mess CIEE never really helped only made things worse, they always blamed you for not trying hard enough to make something work but the truth is that I know too many people that lived a nightmare because of them. Seriously would not recommend them to my worst enemy. After all I still enjoyed my year abroad because I was like enough to meet really nice people and great friends, some people that had nothing but still tried to help me in every way they could. It’s one of the most amazing experience you can do even tho it’s never easy, it makes you grow up and learn a lot from yourself and others. BUT do not trust this organization because it’s seriously one of the worst.

Request for information about Charles T. Ritz III, California

CSFES has just received information that the police are investigating Charles T. Ritz III (65), better known as Chuck Ritz, for sexual misconduct that goes as far back as 1975 and may have continued up until recently. We have been told that some of his victims may have been earlier exchange students from at least Austria, Finland and Germany.

The first allegations against Mr. Ritz came from people who had been his students in Lake Bluff School District, Chicago, Illinois, during the period of 1975-1985. In June 2016, they contacted the Lake Bluff Police Department.

At the time of the alleged abuse, the students informed school authorities of the matter. The school superintendent, Edward Noyes, chose to not contact police or prosecutors. Instead, the school district consulted their insurance company and attorneys. Nor did he disclose this information when he was contacted by other school districts. According to ABC7, Chuck Ritz “was allowed to resign and even paid more than $22,000 on the way out of the door.”

During this period, another allegation of sexual misconduct was brought against Mr. Ritz in Florida by two teenagers. One of the alleged victims was a student of Mr. Ritz and the other was the boy’s girl-friend.

When he left Illinois for more attractive fields, Mr. Ritz went to Orange County, California. He worked in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District at La Habra High School until May 2016, when this case was brought to light. The number of allegations against Charles Ritz indicate a serial abuser. Such abusers seldom stop. Experience teaches which victim will keep quiet.

If you have information about Mr. Charles (Chuck) T. Ritz III, please contact the Committee for the Safety of Foreign Exchange Students through Lise Lotte M Almenningen at margarethesdatter (at) csfes.org or the CEO of CSFES, Danielle Grijalva, at dgrijalva (at) csfes.org or the police in California through Detective Forgash of the La Habra Police Department at JForgash (at) lahabraca.gov


Media links:


Copied, with permission, from CSFES Finland

2016: STS: Orlando, Florida, USA

Chaotic room 2
Chaotic room 2

When exchange students have had a wonderful or decent time during their language course or exchange semester/year, it can be difficult for them to accept that there are many students who have poor or horrible experiences. Very few students find out about the organizations (like CSFES) that are willing to help them find a way to solve their problems when their exchange agency fails them. Students are even told by some exchange firms that CSFES is not a serious organization.

Most youth who go on some form of language travel have a decent time. Sadly, many do not. They are placed in homes that aren’t prepared to take care of them. One such student is a 14 year old Finnish boy who went on a language trip to Orlando, Florida with STS. Considering the state of the host-house we are shown, CSFES is troubled, once again, by the apparent lack of background checks. It is obvious from the state of the house, that the owner had been struggling for quite some time. However, many students are placed in such homes. Thankfully, the Finnish language student took pictures and filmed the state of the host-house. He, and the the other three students living in the home, had to pay for food that the host-mother was supposed to provide. When he bought food, the host-mother ate most of it. You will see that sleeping space was tight. The rule that most exchange/language organizations follow is no more than two students per room unless the room is very spacious.

Laundry pile in host home
Laundry pile in host home

In addition to problems with the host family, the organization did not keep its promises regarding activities the students had been promised. This student found out that other students in other places and homes had completely different and safer homes and representatives. From the video, pictures and post, what this student went through was a clear case of neglect by the host family and STS.

Finland’s country manager, Mira Silvonen, tried to claim that the boy had not gone on a trip this year. This is how most of the organizations respond to complaints, by denial. That is what frustrates parents, students and helpers most: The complete inability to admit that the exchange service is at fault for choosing the wrong host family.

Towards the end of his recollection, the former Finnish language student informs us that a Swedish student, who had written a poor review, was offered money by STS to remove his review.

Use appropriately / give credit where due

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