By Mei Jingya, Sina English
A St. John’s University scholarship winner from China testified that she was forced to hand-wash the dirty underwear of a disgraced top school administrator in addition to helping her commit fraud.
The former student, Peiyi Gan, testified in a videotaped deposition in Brooklyn federal court that Cecilia Chang, the one-time dean of the Asian Studies department, threatened to yank her financial aid unless she complied.
Chang, 57, is accused of embezzling more than US$1 million from the Queens school to finance casino jaunts and shopping sprees while turning scholarship winners into personal servants.
The dean directed Gan to doctor financial documents that she later used to claim hundreds of thousands of dollars from the school, Gan said.
By using a bottle of Wite-Out and cutting and pasting sections of old bank statements, Gan said she typed up seemingly bona fide expenses for Chang by following a handwritten set of instructions given to her by the university administrator.
”She asked me to do that every month,” Gan, 31, said.
Gan testified that she often faxed the fake statements to Chang at casinos in Atlantic City and Connecticut where the administrator routinely gambled “a couple of days a week.”
She continued acting as a personal servant until she graduated with a Master’s degree in 2007.
Brooklyn federal prosecutors say Chang’s casino addiction become such a problem that she siphoned university money to pay her personal gambling debts, while disguising the payments as legitimate business expenses.
Other former students testified how Chang also forced them to perform personal chores or risking losing their scholarships.
Both Gan and ex-student Jing Zhou told the jury hearing the forced labor case that she too had to hand-wash Chang’s underwea. Former student Adam Melkonian recounted his days chauffeuring Chang to countless personal errands - including many runs to regional casinos.