NEW YORK (CBS/AP) Several people promised their houses or made personal pledges of repayment to secure the $1.5 million bond of Cecilia Chang, the former dean of the Institute of Asian Studies at St. John's University who allegedly threatened to revoke students' scholarship funds if they refused to perform random chores for her, say reports.
Chang was able to walk out of a Brooklyn court Friday thanks to six friends, including those of her son and accountants, who reportedly rallied behind the former dean and vowed $1.5 million toward her bail, according to the New York Post.
The 57-year-old was jailed Thursday on forced labor charges stemming from allegations that she told students they would lose their scholarships unless they cooked, cleaned and did her laundry.
The federal case is based in part on FBI interviews with unnamed students, most from overseas, who were awarded scholarships of $5,000 or more per semester by Chang. The scholarships officially required the students to work part time for the Asian Studies program, but the students interviewed claim that they ended up as Chang's personal assistants.
According to the forced labor complaint one student claimed he was forced to drive Chang around town, take out her garbage and shovel snow. Another student described having to go to Chang's home in Queens each day to drive "Chang to the hair salon, to restaurants and to the airport," while others allegedly did her grocery shopping, and cooked her meals. The complaint also states that a student cashed Chang's checks so her drivers could deliver cash to a casino in Connecticut.
Chang had already been arrested on Sept. 15 on state charges that she embezzled about $1 million, including a $250,000 donation from a Saudi prince's foundation.
One student, who feared losing a scholarship after Chang was fired in connection with the embezzlement charges, sent an e-mail to St. John's officials claiming that the dean had three student housekeepers who each worked 122 days a year.
According to the forced labor complaint Chang "would often tell [one student] she was the 'boss,"' and she allegedly warned the same student to keep quiet this year when the FBI began investigating.
Barry Bohrer, Chang's lawyer, says he thinks the charges against his client are "overblown and not the appropriate subject of a federal proceeding," according to CBS station WCBS.
In a statement, St. John's called the latest accusations "shocking and in complete violation of what this university stands for" and said that the students would continue to receive financial aid.
Chang reportedly worked for the Queens, N.Y. college for 30 years and was the vice president of international relations.
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