- The United States deported dozens of Israelis on immigration
violations last year, including at least five from an art school in South
Florida, after reports they were posing as students to gain access to government
buildings, federal officials said Wednesday.
- Israelis in South Florida, Dallas and San Diego were
sent home by the Immigration and Naturalization Service last year on visa
violations, an INS spokesman in Washington said. But authorities were first
drawn to them based on a suspicion that they were spying, according to
one federal law enforcement agency.
- Thomas Hinojosa of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration
said the DEA compiled an internal report after several branch offices throughout
the country reported "suspicious activities'' by individuals presenting
themselves as Israeli art students. The Israelis were allegedly trying
to gain access to DEA facilities, Hinojosa said.
- The DEA report said the youths' actions "may well
be an organized intelligence-gathering activity," the Associated Press
- The DEA forwarded the report to the "appropriate
federal law enforcement authorities,'' Hinojosa said.
- The INS deported the individuals a short time later,
both before and after Sept. 11, when security was tightened.
- INS spokesman Russ Bergeron said about 20 Israelis from
San Diego, an undetermined number from Dallas, and five or six from South
Florida were deported.
- "The general modus operandi was that these individuals
were in major metropolitan areas selling art at street locations. In some
instances they were near federal buildings. In some instances they were
not,'' Bergeron said.
- All were deported for either overstaying their visas
or working illegally while on a student visa, he said.
- Rumors about the students have circulated since March
2001.The story gained momentum this week when a French Internet site, Intelligence
Online, reported the United States had broken up a massive Israeli spy
- None were charged with espionage, and Justice Department
spokeswoman Susan Dryden said.
- The Israelis in South Florida were affiliated with Universal
Art, which lists addresses in South Miami and Sunrise, according to Rodney
Germain, the INS spokesman in Miami.
- On Wednesday there was no sign of any company called
Universal Art Inc., at 10873 NW 52nd St. in Sunrise. The address listed
in Florida incorporation documents came back to a light industrial complex
next to the Sawgrass Expressway and south of Commercial Boulevard. No one
answered the door, and several occupants had never heard of the company.
- The company's officers, Yitzchak Shish and Chava Sagi,
are not listed. They were not among those who were deported, Germain said.
- Staff Writer Christy McKerney and the Associated Press
contributed to this report. Jeff Shields can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel Originally
Published 3-7-02 http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/broward/search/sfl-cspies07mar07.story