Israeli art students suspected of spying



Israeli art students suspected of spying



http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/broward/search/sfl-scspies07mar07.story



By Jeff Shields

Staff Writer

Posted March 7 2002



      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, said 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 reported on

Wednesday.



      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.



      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

ring. 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, said Rodney Germain, 

INS

spokesman in Miami.



      On Wednesday, there was no sign of a company called Universal Art

Inc., at 10873 NW 52nd St. in Sunrise. The address 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 not 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 jshields@sun-sentinel.com or

954-356-4531.






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