The sensational US$1 million fraud case against Taiwanese-born Cecilia Chang (章曙彤) ended on Tuesday in New York after her body was found hanging from a ladder in her luxury apartment.
According to widely reported sources, Chang, 59, had committed suicide.
Police sources said that just before the hanging, Chang had tried to slash her wrists and gas herself.
“It’s a Shakespearean tragedy,” federal Judge Sterling Johnson said as he declared a mistrial and closed the case.
The former dean of St John’s University, New York, Chang died a day after testifying in what witnesses said was a “belligerent and incoherent” fashion.
She took the stand — against the advice of her lawyers — to admit that she had lied to the FBI, charged personal items on her expenses and used students as servants.
Johnson said that her planned suicide could have been one of the reasons she wanted to testify.
“Sayonara. Get it off her chest. We never know how an individual handles the pressure. She admitted everything on the stand,” he said.
Chang’s body was found after firefighters broke down the door of her apartment when her son, Steven, 27, became worried that she was not answering the telephone.
She left a note in Chinese that was still in the hands of translators yesterday, but throughout the headline-grabbing case that had been pending for more than two years, Chang had pleaded not guilty, claiming that the money she took was owed to her by the university and that other charges were exaggerated.
In all, she faced 205 counts of grand larceny, forgery and falsification of business records.
Students, some of them Taiwanese, claimed that Chang treated them like servants, with one girl telling prosecutors that she was forced to wash Chang’s expensive silk underwear by hand.
Chang’s neighbors testified to her extravagant lifestyle, her pricey clothes and her three Mercedes.
The New York Daily News has also reported that Chang was the prime suspect in the 1990 murder of her first husband, Ruey Fung Tsai.
“Tsai scrawled a deathbed note to detectives claiming she was behind the hit job,” the newspaper said.
However, with Chang’s death, that case too is likely to be closed.
Chang told the court that she had raised US$20 million for St John’s and that in the process she had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of her own money.
She said that the university owed her the money that she embezzled, but the prosecution claimed she spent a fortune on gambling and online dating services.
Chang had developed a national reputation as an ambassador and fund-raiser for the university.
After the case was closed, Chang’s lawyers issued a statement saying: “Cecilia Chang dedicated 30 years of her life to St John’s University.”
“She was a prolific fund-raiser and tireless advocate for her beloved Asian Studies program at the university. Her death today is a sad ending to a complex human drama,” the statement said.
Chang had an undergraduate degree from Tamkang University, Taipei, and a graduate degree from Columbia University in New York.
If convicted of all charges, she would have faced a prison sentence of between 10 and 20 years.
SURPRISE GUEST: Media reports identified the visitor as Admiral Michael Studeman, director of the J2, which oversees intelligence at the US military’s Indo-Pacific Command A two-star US Navy admiral overseeing US military intelligence in the Asia-Pacific region has made an unannounced visit to Taiwan, two sources told Reuters on Sunday. The sources, who include a Taiwanese official familiar with the situation, said the official was Rear Admiral Michael Studeman. They were speaking on condition of anonymity. After initially saying on Sunday night that it had no comment about the report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it welcomed the visit of an “unidentified US official,” but declined to give more details because the trip “has not been made public.” Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang (張惇涵) yesterday
DEFENSE: The construction of indigenous submarines will be a testament to the nation’s commitment to safeguard its sovereignty, President Tsai Ing-wen said President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday presided over a ceremony to mark the start of construction of the nation’s first indigenous submarine at state-run shipbuilder CSBC Corp’s (台灣國際造船) shipyard in Kaohsiung. “This submarine is an important part of allowing our navy to develop asymmetric warfare and to intimidate and block enemy ships from surrounding Taiwan’s main island,” Tsai said. “With the construction of the submarine to its future commission, we will certainly let the world know our persistence in safeguarding our sovereignty.” Tsai has made boosting the nation’s indigenous defense capacity a central pillar of her defense policy. She recently relaunched the
ESPIONAGE CHARGE: A TAO spokesperson said that the rights of Shih Cheng-ping were ‘fully safeguarded’ during the hearing, which handed him four years in prison China sentenced Shih Cheng-ping (施正屏), a former National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) professor, to four years in jail for espionage, officials said yesterday. The ruling came a month after Shih made a televised “confession” on state media. Shih, who is also a former chief economist for Chinese conglomerate Huaxia Group (華夏集團), was found guilty by a Chinese court on Tuesday, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) told a news briefing. Shih — who vanished after traveling to China in August 2018 — was among Taiwanese who China Central Television (CCTV) last month showed confessing to spying. CCTV often broadcasts suspects admitting to crimes, even
TIMELINE QUESTIONS: Chen Shih-chung said: ‘If anyone could assure us that we could get the shots in the first quarter of next year, we could set off firecrackers’ Taiwan has secured nearly 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday, as it reported five new imported infections among travelers from Indonesia and the Philippines. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that Taiwan on Monday signed a procurement contract with a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer and paid a deposit to secure 10 million doses. It was the first contract finalized with a manufacturer and negotiations are under way with three other vaccine makers, Chen said. With the more than 4.6 million doses that can be obtained through the COVAX platform —