In early April 2020 Hiu Kit David Chong, a former University of Southern California admissions official, agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of fraud in the US. Chong worked in USC’s Office of Graduate Admissions from 2008 to 2016. The charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

A statement issued by the US Attorney’s office explains that Chong arranged for unqualified international students to be admitted to USC’s graduate school in return for payments of between $8,000 and $12,000. Chong admitted to receiving around $40,000 in total.

To pull off the scam, Chong:

  • caused false college transcripts with inflated grades, phony letters of recommendation and fraudulent personal statements to be placed in the students’ admissions packets
  • purchased college transcripts from a Chinese supplier from as early as February 2015 to around December 2018, and
  • offered to research how students could enlist surrogate test-takers for the TOEFL exam.

During the time he worked at USC, Chong also operated a company called So Cal International Group, based in Monterey Park, which purported to specialise in academic consulting for international students.

Chong primarily worked with Chinese graduate students. The dodgy payments were made after the students had signed a contract with So Cal International Group.

Caught in the act

The FBI began an undercover operation in July 2017 in which an agent posed as a friend of fictitious international student “Lin Guoqiang”, and asked Chong to help him get admitted to USC. Chong sourced a fake transcript showing a GPA at 3.47, and secured admission for the student. Chong then met the agent in December 2018 to collect $8,500 in cash. 

Response from USC

In a statement on the matter USC said cooperated with the investigation and believes Chong’s case to be an isolated incident that did not involve other employees.

Chong’s scam was separate from the one perpetrated by William ‘Rick’ Singer, who bribed USC officials to secure admission to USC, and other top US colleges, for the children of his A-list clients.

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Source: Los Angeles Times