Former admissions official to plead guilty for helping student earn admission to USC under false pretenses

Former assistant director of the Office of Graduate Admission Hiu Kit David Chong has agreed to plead guilty for accepting money in exchange for submitting fraudulent documents on the part of Chinese graduate students to help them gain admission to the University, according to court documents unsealed Wednesday. 

Chong worked in the Office of Graduate Admissions from 2008 to 2016. 

In addition to procuring falsified personal statements and letters of recommendation, Chong 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, according to the documents. 

“Defendant Chong, together with others known and unknown to the United States Attorney’s Office, knowingly and with the intent to defraud, devised and participated in, and executed a scheme to defraud USC as to material matters and to obtain property from USC, namely, admission to USC, by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises and the concealment of material facts,” the documents read.

Three students from China paid Chong between $8,000 and $12,000 for admission into USC graduate programs, according to the documents. In total, Chong revealed to the FBI that he had received nearly $40,000 from different international and other undisclosed students for completing these scams. The payments were made after the students had signed a contract through Chong’s now inactive company So Cal International Group, which was purported to specialize in academic consulting.

The FBI started an undercover operation in July 2017 in which an agent, posing as a friend of fabricated international student Lin Guoqiang, asked Chong to help him gain admission into USC, according to court documents. Chong acquired a fake transcript showing the student’s GPA at 3.47 and met the agent in December 2018 to collect $8,500 after securing Guoqiang’s admission. 

“Please DO NOT mail the transcript directly to USC or anyone else,” Chong wrote in an email to the supposed friend in April 2018, according to court documents.

USC believes Chong’s case to be an isolated incident that did not involve other employees, the University said in a statement. 

“The university has cooperated with the government’s investigation,” the statement read. “Chong concealed these actions from the university and continued engaging in them for two-and-a-half years after he left USC.”

According to the terms of the deal, Chong will plead guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.