A former University dean is currently in the middle of a federal trial in Brooklyn, facing charges that include embezzlement and forcing international students to do her household chores in exchange for scholarships.
Cecilia Chang, formerly the dean for the Asian Studies Center, was arrested on Sept. 15 2010 and accused of allegedly charging hundreds of thousands of dollars to her St. John’s-issued credit card and forcing international students to work for her. Authorities say the students performed such tasks as hand washing her underwear and cooking for her and her son.
According to the New York Daily News, charges to Chang’s University credit card included fixing her car’s busted windshield, a $30,000 cash advance at Mohegan Sun casino, $1,308 at celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Taiwan and $20,300 in law school tuition for her son.
During her defense, Chang’s lawyer, Stephen Mahler, reportedly said the expenses were necessary for Chang’s job at St. John’s.
“She was a goodwill ambassador, their secretary of state,” he said to the jury.
“She needed to keep up a great front, which was very expensive … she meets with international donors … and she can’t take these people to McDonald’s.”
The University learned about Chang’s actions when an anonymous letter, written in Chinese, was sent to the Board of Trustees.
The Torch reported in 2010 that Chang had allegedly diverted $250,000, donated by a Saudi prince for a lecture series and language program, to “The Global Development Initiative Foundation,” which Chang admitted to University officials was a hoax.
On Monday Oct. 15, a Chinese citizen, Peiyi Gan — who worked for Chang from 2004 to 2007, according to the Daily News — told the court in a video deposition, “To work for the dean is my duty … if I don’t do the duties, she is going to terminate the scholarship.”
If convicted, Chang faces 20 years in jail.