A former USC admissions official was sentenced Thursday to probation with nine months in home detention for accepting thousands of dollars in payments to ensure graduate school admission for unqualified international students.
Hiu Kit David Chong was also ordered to serve 30 hours of community service and immediately pay a $40,000 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Chong, 36, of Arcadia admitted to falsifying applicants’ admission packets with doctored college transcripts, phony letters of recommendation and fraudulent personal statements in exchange for $8,000 to $12,000 per student. His case is not part of the nationwide college admissions scandal.
Chong pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court in April to a single wire fraud count, a felony carrying a possible penalty of up to 20 years behind bars.
As the assistant director of USC’s Office of Graduate Admissions from September 2008 to March 2016, Chong told Chinese nationals he could assist them in obtaining admission into a graduate degree program at the university. He furthered the scheme by operating a now-defunct Monterey Park academic consulting company, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The defendant 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 the phony documents in the students’ USC application packets, including fraudulent letters of recommendation and fabricated personal statements purportedly written by the applicants.
He also offered to research how to arrange for a surrogate test taker to take the English as a Foreign Language exam, the results of which USC would consider when making decisions regarding admissions applications.
Chong also admitted to helping three unqualified international students gain admission to USC using phony application materials.
Chong said he was paid $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 profits of $40,000, federal prosecutors said.
USC issued a statement in April saying the university cooperated with the federal investigation.
“Chong concealed these actions from the university and continued engaging in them for 2 1/2 years after he left USC,” according to the university.