July 08, 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. One of many questions following his arrest and shocking death: If, and how many, other vulnerable young exchange students — kids not yet old enough for college — might have fallen prey to an American family who was supposed to offer them shelter and guidance.
Detectives believe there might be numerous victims and are asking them to come forward. The Leary case also adds to a list of similar cases that raise concerns about companies that arrange such trips, with the blessing of the U. Although the vast majority of foreign exchange students have good experiences, authorities have documented numerous examples of hosts abusing international students in Florida and across the country.
Our journalism takes a lot of time, effort, and hard work to produce. If you read and enjoy our journalism, please consider subscribing today. Abuse of foreign exchange students is rampant in the United States. They say she tried killing herself alongside year-old Dale last week and remains hospitalized.
The Spanish student Leary married, Marta San Jose, who is now 21, also remains jailed and faces several felony charges. Dale Leary was found dead after being accused of molesting the younger sister of an exchange student he hosted and later married.
The Miami Herald has learned that 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 So far, authorities in Miami-Dade have not gotten a response from a subpoena sent for records from CCI, but the company issued a statement to the Herald.
She was a longtime Miami-Dade schools administrator, he an advertising and tech consultant claiming Fortune 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 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 , she and Leary flew to Spain to ask her parents to allow her to stay in Miami for her senior year.
He said no one knew the two had divorced or that Leary had married his visiting student. 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. 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. Inside the rear passenger area was Dale and Claudia Leary. 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. Lee Education Center in South Miami. Foreign exchange groups and companies stress that the vast majority of high school students have a safe, enjoyable experience in the United States.
Last year, nearly 24, high school students came to the United States to study, according to data provided by the U. State Department, which monitors some exchange programs and provides visas. In , high school students were hosted in Florida. The Department of Homeland Security oversees exchange programs involving another type of visa but did not respond to questions about the programs.
Still, over the past decades, there have been persistent reports of students being physically or sexually abused by their host parents, hosted in filthy homes or malnourished. He sported over a dozen arrests on his criminal history, yet he and his girlfriend were hosting students. One underage student from Vietnam told police she was coerced into sex numerous times. He is awaiting trial. What host agency placed the girls with Perez could not immediately be determined.
Exchange students are a particularly vulnerable group, said Grijalva, director of the nonprofit watchdog group. He was convicted in of breaking into a home and tying up a woman, sexually assaulting her at gunpoint. An FBI-based fingerprint search would certainly be more thorough.
But the State Department abandoned a plan to require FBI-based fingerprint searches for people hosting foreign exchange students in , according to The Associated Press. A photo of Claudia Leary from her public Facebook page. Facebook 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.
Even an FBI-based search would include some loopholes. It might not catch people who have no criminal convictions on file. Shernon James, of Naples, was arrested for downloading child porn over a decade ago in Southwest Florida.
He admitted it to detectives , but he was acquitted at trial — and he had his state record expunged. James molested the exchange student and was later convicted and sentenced to probation — which he promptly violated by getting arrested and convicted for an unrelated sex assault in Orange County. In another Florida case, an elderly man named Lloyd Lindquist was sentenced to five years of probation after setting up a hidden camera to record illicit images of a teen boy staying in his home.
CCI Greenheart was one of the companies that placed students with Lindquist, who had no criminal record in Florida before his arrest. Some industry groups have made an effort to bolster screening. The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel has criminal background check standards for its member organizations, including requiring national criminal background checks based on a Social Security number, said executive director Page.
Grijalva disagrees, saying Leary likely would have been caught had he been fingerprinted.