Former USC Admissions Official Agrees to Plead Guilty to Running Fraudulent Scheme to Admit Unqualified International Students
LOS ANGELES – A former University of Southern California admissions official has agreed to plead guilty to a wire fraud charge in a scheme to obtain USC graduate school admission slots for unqualified international students in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash.
In a plea agreement filed this afternoon, Hiu Kit David Chong admitted that he caused false college transcripts with inflated grades, phony letters of recommendation and fraudulent personal statements to be placed in the students’ admissions packets.
Chong, a 36-year-old Arcadia resident, agreed to plead guilty to a one-count criminal information charging him with wire fraud. He will be summoned to appear in United States District Court on a future date.
Chong, who was an assistant director in USC’s Office of Graduate Admissions from September 2008 to March 2016, represented to Chinese nationals that he could assist them in obtaining admission into a graduate degree program at the university. Chong also furthered his scheme by founding and running the now-defunct Monterey Park-based academic consulting company, So Cal International Group, Inc.
According to his plea agreement, from February 2015 to December 2018, Chong solicited and received payments – ranging from approximately $8,000 to $12,000 – from unqualified international students or from others who were acting on behalf of the unqualified students.
Chong purchased phony college transcripts purporting to be from Chinese universities and instructed his supplier to create transcripts to show falsely inflated grade point averages. Chong admitted he submitted and caused the submission of the phony documents in the international students’ USC application packets, including fraudulent letters of recommendation and fabricated personal statements purportedly written by the applicants.
Chong also offered to research how to arrange for a surrogate test taker to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), the results of which USC would consider when making decisions regarding admissions applications, according to court documents. In his plea agreement, Chong admitted that he concealed from the university that the applicants paid him to facilitate their admission.
Chong admitted to helping three unqualified international students gain admission to USC using fraudulent application materials. Chong was paid a total of $38,000 from international students and people he believed were working with international students, including an undercover law enforcement official. He also received additional payments from other international students as part of the scheme, resulting in his ill-gotten gains of approximately $40,000.
When Chong enters his guilty plea, he will face a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
The FBI investigated this case.
This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Steven M. Arkow of the Major Frauds Section.