2009: Foreign-exchange coordinator arrested

The Times Tribune | By Joe McDonald, (staff writer) | Published: July 24, 2009

A Scranton woman who allegedly placed foreign-exchange students in area homes so deplorable that prosecutors called it a crime was arrested Thursday after turning herself in to authorities.

Edna Mary Burgette, 69, of 810 Myrtle St., was charged with five counts of endangering the welfare of children after she showed up at the Lackawanna County district attorney’s office. Detectives had been searching for her since Wednesday but were unable to find her, District Attorney Andy Jarbola said.

«We knew where she was staying,» Mr. Jarbola said. «She wasn’t on the run.»

Ms. Burgette was released on $25,000 unsecured bail at her arraignment before Magisterial District Judge Sean P. McGraw in Carbondale. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Her arrest does not mean investigators have ended their inquiry into the foreign-exchange student scandal centered in Scranton, Mr. Jarbola said.

«The investigation is continuing,» he said. «It’s continuing before the grand jury.»

The grand jury is scheduled to reconvene next week, he said. Last week, Mr. Jarbola said his office was securing records and other information from Aspect Foundation, the agency by which Ms. Burgette was employed.

The charges against Ms. Burgette revolve around five foreign-exchange students who were placed in area homes between August and May by Ms. Burgette, the former area coordinator for San Francisco-based Aspect Foundation. She was fired after the organization learned of the allegations.

The students told investigators they lived in filthy homes, some of which were later condemned. Several said they were living with ex-convicts and drug dealers. At least one student required medical attention for lack of adequate food and drink. All said Ms. Burgette ignored their complaints, even though she was paid by Aspect to place and check up on the students.

According to court papers, a girl from Norway said she was placed in a home filled with dog feces and cat urine on Dickson Avenue, and a boy from Colombia said he was exposed to similar unsanitary conditions at 935 Madison Ave., where he lived with people who had been released from prison and liked to smoke marijuana.

A student from Nigeria who stayed at Jermyn Apartments and at 935 Madison Ave. also said her living conditions included animal feces and life with ex-convicts, as well as very little food.

Two other students, one from Tanzania who lived at a home on Quincy Avenue, the other from Vietnam who also lived on Quincy Avenue, said they were not given enough food.

Contact the writer: jmcdonald@timesshamrock.com


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