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HomeBusinessU.S. college admissions scandal mastermind Singer sentenced

U.S. college admissions scandal mastermind Singer sentenced

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Bob Mackin

The kingpin of the U.S. college admissions scandal, which involved two British Columbians, was sentenced to jail in Boston Jan. 4 for 42 months. 

U.S. District Court Senior Judge Rya Zobel also sentenced William “Rick” Singer to three years probation and ordered the 62-year-old St. Petersburg, Fla. resident to pay $10.7 million restitution to the Internal Revenue Service and forfeit $5.3 million of assets and $3.4 million in cash. 

“The conduct in this case was something out of a Hollywood movie: wealthy, entitled parents, paying for their children to secure admission to colleges, using fake test scores, falsified resumés, and even staged or photoshopped pictures,” U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins told reporters. “They gained admission that was not based on merit or athletic ability, but rather on cheating.”

The 55 people charged actually included Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin and spawned a Netflix documentary heavy on re-enactments.

Point Grey resident David Sidoo and Surrey’s Xiaoning “Peggy” Sui were two of the 53 convicted since early 2019.

Singer owned and operated the Edge College and Career Network LLC and was CEO of the not-for-profit Key Worldwide Foundation. From 2011 to 2019, he conspired with parents, coaches and a university athletics administrator to gain admission via bribery to well-known colleges and universities. Test proctors and administrators were paid off to allow cheating on entrance exams. Coaches and administrators were bribed to accept applicants based on fraudulent sports credentials. 

David Sidoo accepting the Order of B.C. from Premier Christy Clark and Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon in 2016 (BC Gov)

Key disguised the bribes as charitable donations, which even allowed parents to deduct payments from their taxes. Singer took in $25 million, paid $7 million in bribes and used $15 million for his own benefit. 

“Any parent or guardian who has ever experienced the college admissions process should be angry,” Rollins said. “Any student or student athlete who spent their lives preparing to get into college, or to compete in college athletics, should be angry. This is not how the process should work. And that is precisely why this investigation and prosecution was so important.”

Sui, a Chinese citizen with Canadian permanent residency, was arrested in September 2019 while travelling in Spain. She spent 157 days in a Madrid jail and was eventually sentenced in May 2020 to time served. A judge fined Sui $250,000 and she forfeited the $400,000 bribe she paid Singer in order to arrange her son’s admission to the University of California Los Angeles. Her son had no prior competitive soccer experience, but was falsely billed as a top player on two private teams in Canada.

Xiaoning Sui (Twitter)

Mining and energy stock promoter Sidoo, a former University of B.C. and Canadian Football League star, was sentenced to 90 days jail in July 2020 after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. 

In 2011 and 2012, Sidoo paid $200,000 to Singer. Singer hired tennis pro Mark Riddell who used false identification to pose as Sidoo’s sons in order to ace their college entry exams. On two occasions, the Floridian flew to B.C. to write exams. 

Dylan Sidoo was accepted to Chapman University, but later transferred to University of Southern California. Jordan Sidoo entered University of California Berkeley. They both graduated. 

Not only did David Sidoo serve jail time, but his name was removed from the field at Thunderbird Stadium, he lost his B.C. Sports Hall of Fame induction and his Order of B.C. award was stripped. 

“Operation Varsity Blues exposed a bold and shameless, decade-long scheme that undercut hardworking students trying to get into these prestigious universities the right way — through hard work, grades, community service, and sheer perseverance,” said FBI Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta. “Everyone we’ve arrested, charged and convicted to date are integral to the scheme’s success. But, without Rick Singer, they never would have succeeded.”

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