Exchange students staying in Bullitt Co. claim they were held against their will before being sent home

Exchange students in Bullitt County sent home following drinking incident

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Kicked out of the country, two foreign exchange students flew home Friday after a tense stay with a Bullitt County family.

Alessandra Rigato,17, is from Italy and Pamela Nagyova,16, is from Slovakia.

The two girls were accused of underage drinking after hanging with a friend who was drinking alcohol on November 16. They actually admitted to it, but only because they said they were pressured and held against their will.

Now, the students have had their visas revoked and left with a tearful goodbye.

“I’m disappointed and sad,” Nagyova said. “I’m glad that I met some people here because they are amazing.”

“I don’t know, I’m a little bit upset,” Rigato added. “I feel like it’s not fair. I don’t want to go home but I want to go home after what happened.”

Some of the girls' friends made during their time in Bullitt County came to Louisville to say goodbye.
Some of the girls' friends made during their time in Bullitt County came to Louisville to say goodbye. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

The two girls described the past week as a nightmare. They were supposed to finish out the year at Bullitt East High through the Education First exchange program.

“The sponsor of their visa has determined, with no due process, with no evidence, that they believe they consumed alcohol,” Attorney Larry Wilder said.

Wilder has a letter from one of the teens who was with the two exchange students that night that he said confirms their story.“

They are minors and they were detained in a place where they were in fear,” Wilder said.

The girls claim their host mother interrogated them for over an hour on the couch the next morning, confiscating their phones and not allowing them to get up while they denied drinking.

“It was almost like everyone knew ‘we did drink’ and it was almost like we didn’t have a chance of saying no,” Rigato said.

Attorney Larry Wilder says there was no due process or evidence that the girls consumed alcohol.
Attorney Larry Wilder says there was no due process or evidence that the girls consumed alcohol. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

The teens claim they had their phones taken for four days and their contact with their parents was limited.

Both girls claim the intimidation continued throughout the investigation, even with their host father.

“’You don’t want me to get involved. Stop pushing me.'" Nagyova recalled from conversations with their host father. “I got scared when he was saying that.”

Deborah Fogel and her husband are host parents with EF and said they got a call from the girls’ host mother about the situation.

“Taking their only means of communication seems like there was some intimidation going on,” Fogel said. “This, to my husband and I, didn’t seem right.”

Both girls eventually were able to stay with the Fogels, who hold the teens in high esteem like many of their teachers, who have also written letters defending the young girls.

“I hope they will remember there are people that cared,” Fogel said.

Education First said the students admitted to breaking the law and the Department of State agrees with their decision. They told WAVE 3 News the intimidation allegations only came up when discussing potential removal from the program.

Mount Washington Police did look into the claims but said it was a state department matter and not for law enforcement.

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