A Colombian student who took part in an exchange program in the United
States did not live the American dream but a nightmare of neglect,
abandonment and malnourishment, CNN reported Thursday.
Carlos Villareal was one of five exchange students who came to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to study in the U.S. but says he ended up living with convicted drug-criminals and was hardly given enough food to eat.
“I lost a lot of body weight, and [it was] an unsafe environment which
I felt uncomfortable living in, and it was nothing like I had
envisioned my experience in America,” Villareal told the news network.
Rev. Elmer Smith, who was responsible for Villareal’s stay, denies the boy was badly treated. “The boy had no place to go, so I took him in and I fed him,” Smith
said. “He had a television in his room, he had heat in his room, he had
air-conditioning in his room.”
But District Attorney Andrew Jarbola convened a grand jury to investigate the host families and says what happened to Villareal and the other students was a crime.
“In my opinion they were treated kind of crudely,” Jarbola said. “They weren’t provided with food, hygiene and things of that nature.”
Jarbola told CNN that some students were so malnourished that one was treated in a hospital for dehydration while another passed out during track at school.
The company that placed the students initially denied there had been problems and then said it corrected problems.