Dr. Chang, a dean at St. John’s University in Queens, associated with a whirlwind of characters: Catholic priests, Chinese gangsters, American lawmakers, a Taiwanese general and a fantastically corrupt city politician, to name a few. She had been married three times. One husband, she had told several people, was involved in organized crime; another told the police before succumbing to gunshot wounds that she was behind the attack.
It was an unlikely lifestyle for anyone, let alone a dean at St. John’s, where she helped attract millions of dollars in contributions to the university from her native Taiwan. But that life, prosecutors charged in state and federal indictments, was enabled by fraud and embezzlement.Federal prosecutors accused her of forcing foreign students to perform household labor in exchange for tuition grants, stealing over $1 million from the university and taking $250,000 from a Saudi prince to organize academic conferences that never happened.
Less than 24 hours after testifying, Dr. Chang killed herself— an act of grisly determination. She started a fire in a bedroom fireplace and closed the flue. When death did not come quickly enough, she went downstairs to the kitchen and turned on the gas. For extra measure, she slit her wrists.