New York shuts down Olivet University amid federal money laundering probe

New York has shut down Olivet University’s operations in the state, saying the evangelical Christian college is still largely run by a group of David Jang followers linked to a 2018 criminal conspiracy.

Jang, a Korean American cleric, founded Olivet in 2000. His followers are now in the crosshairs of Department of Homeland Security investigators looking into whether the university was part of a money laundering scheme for criminals in China and the United States.

A sign near the closed entrance to Olivet University in Dover, New York.
JOSH KEEFE/NEWSWEEK

The scathing rebuke from New York’s deputy education commissioner cited ‘a pattern of mismanagement’ at the university and its links to ‘criminal activity’ in ending Olivet’s authorization to organize courses or programs for credit in New York.

(Olivet’s campuses in Tennessee and California are also subject to scrutiny, and DHS may revoke Olivet’s authorization to enroll international students.)

The Education Department’s decision to close the Olivet campuses in Manhattan and Dover, New York, after a two-year review, was made on May 17, weeks after Newsweek reported that DHS investigators raided Olivet’s corporate headquarters in Anza, Calif., as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into visa fraud, labor trafficking and money laundering. silver.

A little-known Bible college, Olivet University was thrust into the national media spotlight in 2018 when the Manhattan District Attorney announced indictments in a fraud and money laundering investigation unrelated to the federal investigation. In progress. Olivet pleaded guilty to money laundering, as did several of Jang’s supporters and the businesses they ran.

Deputy Education Commissioner William P. Murphy wrote to Olivet on Thursday, rejecting the college’s appeal of the May 17 ruling, saying the college had done far too little to clean up its act. He blocked Olivet from reapplying for certification to operate in New York. The ministry shared the letter with Newsweek and declined further comment. The decision took effect immediately.

Olivet lacked the financial resources to fulfill his mission, Murphy said. An Education Department review found that “Olivet has a well-established pattern of non-compliance with laws, rules and regulations,” he wrote. “The record reveals to me a broader tendency to only come into compliance when forced to.”

Olivet has failed to purge its leadership of executives who were in office when the university committed the financial crimes uncovered by the Manhattan District Attorney in 2018, Murphy said, pointing to Tracy Davis, the college’s president at the time of the guilty plea. She then took on a new position as Academic Dean. Tracy Davis is the wife of Johnathan Davis, co-owner of Newsweek. The other co-owner, Newsweek CEO and Chairman Dev Pragad, said earlier this year that he had left the Olivet cult and wanted to prevent Jang supporters from interfering in the company and its newsroom. Johnathan Davis is the CEO of IBT Media, which pleaded guilty to fraud charges brought by the Manhattan DA. IBT Media owned Newsweek for several years, spinning it just before the 2018 indictments were announced.

Tracy Davis and Johnathan Davis
Tracy Davis, former president and academic dean of Olivet University, with her husband, Johnathan Davis, co-owner of Newsweek.
Hudson E. Tsuei

Five of Olivet’s six current board members held leadership positions at the college when the crimes uncovered in 2018, and Barnabas Jung, the then chief financial officer, still held the same position, Murphy wrote. He harshly criticized Olivet’s financial management, writing “a pattern of mismanagement of the institution’s finances, indicating a lack of capacity or lack of commitment on the part of Olivet to manage its finances in a manner conducive to the operation of a degree-granting institution in this State.” Among the evidence Murphy examined were 50 lawsuits against Olivet, most of them for failure to pay on contract terms, and 20 tax liens. Olivet had settled all but three of the lawsuits, Murphy said.

In a statement on its website, Olivet University made no mention of Murphy’s reasons or his appeal of the education department’s decision. “Olivet University has always envisioned multiple uses for our Dover site beyond the school itself,” the statement read. The sprawling Dover campus, a former psychiatric hospital in Dutchess County, about 80 miles north of Manhattan, would be used to “serve evangelicals around the world more than ever before,” Olivet said, and would soon house a mission center , a business center, sports and entertainment facilities, a hospital, a technology park and a “gospel-themed museum”.

“Olivet University New York will cease offering credit courses at this time, with the intention of seeking diligently to open an accredited institution at the right time and in the right place in New York – an intention expressed in our current charter application. pending with the New York State Department of Education.”

Newsweek contacted the university for further comment and received a response on Saturday evening. “Olivet University is disappointed with the determination of the New York State Department of Education to refuse renewal of Olivet’s authority to operate its New York campus. As the University assesses its legal options with respect to this decision, Olivet will comply with the decision and notify its students and constituents of the outcome and its impact.”

Murphy made no mention of the charter request and told Olivet his decision was final. He copied his letter to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program, the branch of the Department of Homeland Security that authorizes colleges to bring international students to the United States.

In addition to the California campus, Olivet operates the Jubilee School, a performing arts and music school, in Nashville, Tennessee.

The history of the different Olivet entities dates back to 2000, according to their different websites. This was the year Jang founded Olivet Theological College and Seminary, later incorporated as Olivet University. Both Olivet Assembly USA and Olivet Assembly Europe say they started in 2000 as fellowships of churches by former seminary students. Olivet World Assembly, which also operates out of Dover, New York, says it started the same year. His website now lists more than 120 countries in which he says he has members.

While Jang’s supporters say their department is truly global, federal investigators are focusing on Olivet’s ties to China, from where the college brings many students to the United States. A former student, a pastor named JianGang “Frank” Lan, has been charged in North Carolina with possession of counterfeit products. A North Carolina judge ordered Lan’s arrest Monday after he failed to appear in court and set his bail at $1 million. Lan is in China, his lawyer said. Newsweek discovered Lan’s ties to the Olivet Assembly before Olivet University confirmed he had graduated from the college in 2012.

Three senior law enforcement officials said Newsweek On condition of anonymity, they suspected links between the Lan case and Chinese organized crime and drug cartels, which are turning to China to buy the chemical precursors needed to manufacture the powerful opioid fentanyl which has been in the origin of a wave of fatal drug overdoses in the United States

“Renewal of the power take-off [permission to operate] in this state is not a right, as the appeal documents suggest,” Deputy Commissioner Murphy wrote, summarizing his scathing criticism of Olivet. “PTO is a privilege.”

(Download the full PDF here.)

Update, 07/02, 9:25 p.m. ET: A response from Olivet University, received after publication, has been added to this story.

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