Ex-St. John’s dean charged with embezzling more than $1 million

Cecilia Chang, the former dean of the Institute for Asian Studies, was arrested on Wednesday at her home in Jamaica Estates. Chang has been accused of embezzling over $1 million from the University according to a report released from the Queens District Attorney Office.

The report details that Chang faces a 205-count indictment that includes first-degree grand larceny, second-degree forgery, and first-degree falsification of business records.

At the State Supreme Court in Queens, Justice James P. Griffin ordered her placed on $1 million bail. Chang faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. She pleaded not guilty.

An internal audit revealed that Chang submitted charges on a personal credit card for reimbursement from the University. Chang was suspended in January and eventually lost her job in June.

Chang traveled the world in order to seek donations for the University according to the report. She charged expenses like elaborate dinners, gifts, and entertainment in an effort to procure contribution. These expenses totaled as high as $50,000 a month.

The University issued Chang several credit cards but still allowed her to use her personal card from Taishing Bank after she told them that some places in Asia did not accept U.S. issued cards.

In addition to using the school’s money for personal needs such as clothing, groceries, and toiletries, Chang put her son through school. Part of her authority as dean was to give out scholarships, one of which her son, Stephen, received.

Dominic Scianna described Chang as a “trusted employee” in a public statement.

In addition to skimming money off the top of the endowments the University gave her for travel, Chang also alledgly stole $250,000 from a Saudi Arabian foundation by creating a non-profit for her own benefit.

Prince Alwaleed bin Tala Al Saud’s charity, the Kingdom Foundation, believed it was donating money to the University. The money was donated to Global Development, and later wired to China by Chang.

Global Development was a non-profit Chang pitched to University officials. Though they rejected the idea, she created the foundation and used it to collect donations.

Chang’s home is listed on the real-estate site estately.com for $2.88 million. The colonial has seven bedrooms, five bathrooms, a gym, a sauna, and a Jacuzzi tub.

According to the District Attorney’s report, Ms. Chang stood before Justice James P. Griffin with her hands cuffed behind her back and pleaded not guilty at her arraignment in State Supreme Court in Queens on Wednesday. She was ordered held on $1 million bail and would face up to 25 years in prison if convicted on charges that included grand larceny, forgery and falsification of business records.