A former admissions official accused of helping students from China cheat their way into the University of Southern California’s graduate school has agreed to plead guilty to a federal wire fraud charge, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.
Hiu Kit David Chong, an assistant director at the UCS’s Office of Graduate Admissions from 2008 to 2016, admitted in his plea agreement that in exchange for money, he placed “college transcripts with inflated grades, phony letters of recommendation and fraudulent personal statements” into the admissions packets of those otherwise unqualified Chinese students.
Chong, even after he left the USC, continued to promise to students from China that he could help them get admitted into the graduate degree program at the university. He bought forged college transcripts purporting to be from Chinese universities with falsely inflated GPAs, and submitted those phony documents along with fabricated letters of recommendation and personal statements to the USC.
In an undercover operation in July 2017, an FBI agent disguised as a friend of a Chinese national sent Chong an e-mail with the subject line “Help to get in university,” reported USC Anneberg Media, citing court documents. The agent asked Chong to help get his fictitious friend’s son “Lin Guoqiang” into an American college with a mediocre GPA of 2.1. Chong informed the agent the following year that he had submitted an application on behalf of Guoqiang with a 3.47 GPA.
Chong charged the FBI agent $8,500 for helping non-existent Guoqiang get admitted to USC. In all, Chong admitted to helping three unqualified international students gain admission to USC and collecting approximately $40,000, including from the undercover FBI agent.
“The university has cooperated with the government’s investigation,” the USC wrote in a statement to Annenberg Media. “Chong concealed these actions from the university and continued engaging in them for two-and-a-half years after he left USC. Based on what we know, these actions were isolated to one rogue former employee.”
Chong’s attorney Stanley L. Friedman told Annenberg Media during an interview that his client was living in China until recently.
“He hopes that the court will find mitigation in the fact that he is very remorseful for what he did and voluntarily came back from China to handle the charges of the case,” Friedman said.
According to the terms of the deal, Chong will plead guilty to one count of wire fraud, which is punishable by a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.