3 foreign student pilots arrested near Punta Gorda over visas

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


From the Sun-Sentinel South Florida

3 foreign student pilots arrested near Punta Gorda over visas Associated Press

November 7, 2001, 10:15 AM EST

PORT CHARLOTTE -- Federal authorities arrested three student pilots in this southwest Florida county and the flight school's director said the students from Tunisia apparently overstayed their U.S. visas.

The three students were arrested Tuesday at Charlotte County Airport outside neighboring Punta Gorda by agents of the U.S. Immigration Service and the FBI, according to Glen Happe, owner of the Bald Eagle Aviation flight school at the airport.

One of the three flight students was arrested while taking his final oral test with an FAA certification examiner at a table in the airport restaurant, said Happe, who also is the students' instructor.

One of the other two students was studying for his exam at another table in the restaurant, Happe said.

Both were being tested for commercial multi-engine instrument licenses, licenses that would allow them to fly for hire.

After saying the third student was the only female in that class, Happe identified her as Maryem Abdelahmid Bedoui.

Bedoui, 21, was just days away from taking her final test to get a single-engine private pilot's license, he said.

``This time, I'm a little upset,'' Happe told the Charlotte Sun-Herald for an article in Wednesday's editions. ``I'm disturbed. They were getting ready for their final check rides.''

Local flight schools across Florida and elsewhere in the country came under close scrutiny after investigators learned several of the hijackers who seized four jetliners in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took flying lessons in Florida and other states.

Federal authorities did not make public any details of the case.

The FBI only assisted the INS in making the arrests, according to Sara Oates, the FBI's Tampa spokeswoman.

``They were not arrested on FBI violations,'' said Oates.

In Miami, regional INS spokesman Rodney Germain confirmed only that the INS and the FBI were handling the case.

``We are assisting the FBI,'' he said Tuesday.

``Because of the sensitivity of the investigation and the importance of the information, we cannot release any information.''

Germain, contacted Wednesday, again refused to confirm or deny the newspaper report of the students' arrests. Calls to the FBI in Tampa and Miami early Wednesday seeking further comment on the case were not immediately returned.

Happe said one of the three students detained phoned him. Happe said he believed the three were being held at an INS detention center in Bradenton.

Happe said the student told him he had been arrested because his visa to stay in the United States had expired. Happe then said he thought that if that student's visa had expired it was probable that all three had expired visas, because they all arrived in Florida about the same time, more than a year ago.

Happe said he was told the INS set a court hearing for the students on Thursday.

``If I get a call to find out what I can do for my students, I'll be there like a bullet,'' the flight school owner said.

Frank Cvelbar, owner of Aero Precision, another flight school at the airport, said he felt sorry for Happe's students.

``It's kind of sad it happened, because, to my knowledge, these particular students weren't involved in anything but learning to fly,'' he said.

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), November 08, 2001


Overstaying a visa is illegal. Get them the heck out of here lickety split!!!!!

-- Steve McClendon (ke6bjd@yahoo.com), November 08, 2001.

just imagine H1B on pilots, what a mess that could be.

-- (perry@ofuzzy1.com), November 08, 2001.

Let "Frank" leave the country with them; I'm tired of us feeling sorry for people who break our laws.

-- (stacy_burris@yahoo.com), November 08, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ