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Feds: Dean Treated Students Like Slaves

Cecilia Chang Allegedly Threatened To Take Scholarships Away
St. John's University logo

St. John’s University logo (Credit St. John’s University)

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) — Just when it looked like things couldn’t get worse for accused fundraiser embezzler, Cecilia Chang, new federal charges allege that the former dean of the Institute of Asian Studies at St. Johns University threatened her scholarship students with revoking their funds if they didn’t do such menial tasks as taking out her garbage and shoveling the snow from her driveway.

A New York judge jailed Chang on Thursday on forced labor charges.

The federal case is based in part on FBI interviews with unnamed students, most from overseas, who were awarded scholarships of $5,000 or more per semester by Chang. The scholarships stipulated that the students would work part time for the Asian Studies program, but the students interviewed claim that Chang took that more than a little too far.

One student, according to the complaint, described having to report to Chang’s home in Queens each day to drive “Chang to the hair salon, to restaurants and to the airport.” Others allegedly shopped for food, cooked her meals and washed her clothes.

According to an e-mail sent by one student, who feared losing their scholarship after Chang was fired in connection with the embezzlement charges, the dean had three student housekeepers who each worked 122 days a year.

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.

A bail hearing was set for Friday in federal court in Brooklyn. Chang faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the federal charges.

Chang had already been arrested on Sept. 15 on state charges that she embezzled about $1 million, including a $250,000 donation from a Saudi prince’s foundation.

In a statement, St. John’s called the latest accusations “shocking and in complete violation of what this university stands for” and said that the students would continue to receive financial aid.