St. John’s Dean in 1M embezzle
BY Alison Gendar and Thomas Zambito
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
A St. John’s University fund-raiser stole $1 million from the Queens college to bankroll casino trips, Victoria’s Secret shopping sprees and her son’s law school tuition, prosecutors say.
Cecilia Chang, 57, was held on $1million bail after her arrest Wednesday for grand larceny, forgery and falsifying business records.
Chang, who faces 25 years in prison, pocketed a $250,000 donation sent to the school from a charity run by one of the world’s richest men, billionaire Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, prosecutors say.
Alwaleed is the same prince whose $10 million donation to the city after 9/11 was returned by then- Mayor Rudy Giuliani after the prince suggested U.S. policy contributed to the attacks.
Prosecutors charged that Chang’s expense reports hid payments on everyday items ranging from clothing to her cable television bill.
They claimed Chang conned university officials into giving her a credit card that she used to cover her son’s St.John’s Law School tuition. The ruse was devised after the university denied her son a scholarship, officials said.
St. John’s said Chang was a valued employee of the Catholic college’s Asian Studies department for 30years.
For the last two decades, she had hobnobbed with dignitaries over lavish meals in the Far East, running up as much as $50,000 per month in expenses.
At St. John’s, she earned $140,000 a year, holding the twin titles of dean of the Institute of Asian Studies and vice president for international relations.
She was suspended in January when a university audit turned up dubious travel and entertainment expenses. She was fired six months later. Her lawyer predicted the charges would be dismissed.
“Every dime that this woman spent was spent on behalf of St. John’s University, entertaining the people who St. John’s University told her to entertain,” her lawyer Todd Greenberg said. “That was her job.”
Prosecutors are looking to seize Chang’s $2.8 million Jamaica Estates home to reimburse the university.