LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A former USC admissions official pleaded guilty Monday to a federal fraud charge for the facilitating the college admission of unqualified foreign students.
Hiu Kit David Chong admitted in his April plea agreement that he falsified applicants’ admission packets with doctored college transcripts, phony letters of recommendation and fraudulent personal statements. The 36-year-old Arcadia man entered his plea by videoconference to a single wire fraud count, a felony carrying a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars.
Chong was assistant director of USC’s Office of Graduate Admissions from September 2008 to March 2016. According to his plea agreement, he told Chinese nationals he could assist them in getting into a USC graduate degree program, and went a step further by operating a now-defunct Monterey Park academic consulting company. Between February 2015 and December 2018, Chong solicited and received payments ranging $8,000 to $12,000 from unqualified international students, or from their representatives. He also admitted to arranging for surrogate test takers to take the English as a Foreign Language exam and then concealing his work facilitating these students’ application from USC.
Chong said he helped three unqualified international students get into USC, and was paid $38,000 for it. He also was paid by other international students as part of the scheme, resulting in profits of $40,000, according to federal prosecutors.
In a statement, USC said they cooperated with the federal investigation.
“Chong concealed these actions from the university and continued engaging in them for two and a half years after he left USC,” the university said in the statement.
The FBI investigated the case, but appears to be separate from the college admissions scandal resulted in federal charges against dozens of parents and university coaches.