Ex-dean allegedly forced student labor for scholarhships

In addition to embezzling over $1 million dollars from St. John’s, former-dean Cecilia Chang is now facing charges that she was forcing students to cook, clean and act as her personal chauffeurs in order to keep their scholarships.

Chang’s position as dean of the Institute of Asian studies allowed her to grant scholarships to students. Most of the recipients were international students that were told the money was contingent on working a minimum of 20 hours a week and 122 days per year, per person.

In a complaint brought before the Federal District Court in Brooklyn on Thursday, Chang is said to have threatened the students if they refused to perform the services she required.

Chang would often tell one of the students that worked in her home that she was the “boss,” the complaint says. When St. John’s officials conducted a search of her office last January, she told the same student to keep quiet. 

According to the forced labor complaint Chang “would often tell [one student] she was the ‘boss,”‘ and she allegedly warned the same student to keep quiet this year when the FBI began investigating.

In an email to the general counsel for St. John’s in August, one of the scholarship students expressed concern for their scholarship in light of Chang’s removal from the University.

“She is my sponsor and now I know that the situation has changed so I was worry about if I can continue to get the scholarship or not. If I cannot get the scholarship anymore, I may cannot study in SJU,” the statement says.

According to the complaint, one of the students received a scholarship in 2007 and was assigned to work as a driver for Chang and her son. Typical assignments included driving to the hair salon and restaurants, shoveling snow from the driveway, and taking out the garbage.

The student was once required to drive Chang’s son, Steven, to the airport at 3 a.m.

A second student, referred to a CI2 was awarded a scholarship that same year and assigned to work as a tutor for the two young children of a personal associate of Change, the complaint says.

In addition to acting as Chang’s personal secretary for a period of time, CI2 also worked as a housekeeper by cleaning dishes, preparing meals, and doing laundry.

Chang also enlisted the students to help her embezzlement scheme against St. John’s, the complaint says. Chang provided the students a list of dates, vendors, and expenses that the students would paste onto authentic credit card statements from Chang’s account. The altered statements were then submitted to St. John’s for reimbursement.

In a statement from St. John’s media relations, Chang’s actions are “shocking and in complete violation of what this university stands for.” Jim Margolin, an FBI agent in New York, said the University has been extremely cooperative and helpful in the investigation.

According to Robert Nardoza at the public information office of the Federal District Court, Chang’s defense attorney presented a bail package to Judge Joan M. Azrack this morning.

If convicted on federal charges, Chang faces up to twenty years in prison.