Bob Mackin (Updated July 16)
David Sidoo starred on the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds’ first Vanier Cup champion football team in 1982.
After becoming a successful stock promoter in his post-Canadian Football League career, Sidoo raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the university and the football team, helping recruit players for the fourth national championship squad in 2015. They put his name on the field and the scoreboard at Thunderbird Stadium. The BC Liberal government, to which he donated, put him on UBC’s board of governors for three years.
You would think David Sidoo bleeds the blue and gold of his alma mater, UBC.
Not so fast.
On July 15, just five days after his 61st birthday, Sidoo appeared by Zoom in front of an American judge, who sentenced him to 90 days in jail for his role in the college admissions scandal.
The crime? Conspiracy to commit mail fraud. In 2011 and 2012, Sidoo paid $200,000 to consultant Rick Singer’s “side door” scheme that saw tennis pro Mark Riddell use false identification to pose as Sidoo’s sons and ace their college entry exams. On two occasions, the Floridian flew to B.C. to write exams.
Dylan Sidoo was accepted to Chapman University, later transferring to University of Southern California. Jordan entered University of California Berkeley. They both graduated but now their diplomas are suspect.
David Sidoo had paid $200,000 so that his sons did not have to follow in his footsteps, so that they could avoid UBC.
A university that is mere minutes by care from their posh $31 million Point Grey mansion.
“I am appalled as to how you find yourself about to be sentenced for a felony,” said Judge Nathaniel Gorton on Zoom, as Sidoo stared blankly at his computer screen, with his mouth wide open. “You are quite evidently an intelligent, hardworking very successful businessman who overcame many hardships in your life, in fact a pillar of your community, and yet you have committed a crime that displays an unbelievable lack of integrity, morality and common sense.
“You have let your selfish desire, your pride, and your enormous wealth overcome all of what you apparently want to stand for by your works of charity.”
After his March 2019 arrest in San Jose, Calif., Sidoo pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. In late January, he negotiated the plea deal, admitting guilt on one charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud to avoid a trial and a potential jail sentence of 20 years.
In addition to the jail sentence, he will pay a $250,000 fine.
Gorton said Sidoo’s crime warrants more than three months, but noted he was remorseful and had no prior criminal record.
Sidoo will surrender to U.S. authorities by Sept. 23 at a minimum security prison to be determined, somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. His first two weeks will be in solitary confinement quarantine, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Said Gorton: “You need to serve at least some time in jail however to demonstrate that the rule of law applies to everyone, rich and poor, educated and uneducated. you need to pay a significant and conspicuous price for your criminal conduct in order to deter you and others from the blatant misuse of your great fortune.”
Minutes earlier, Sidoo tearfully delivered a prepared statement. He paused, took a deep breath and bowed his head at one point, as he wore a checked, Burberry-like blazer in a wood-pannelled room, with a trophy case behind him.
“I’m very sorry,” Sidoo started. “The last several months have been the hardest of my entire life. Today, I accept the court’s decision without reservation. No words can express how sorry I am for my decisions and actions that have led to this day, I make no excuses, you’re honour, I broke the law, I pled guilty to a crime and I now must pay for my actions.”
Sidoo called it a “terrible mistake that has deeply affected our family.” He apologized to his former teammates and those that he said look up to him.
“I wish to apologize for my actions, I will serve my sentence and am committed to returning to my community and doing everything possible to making a positive impact,” he said. “I hope that in time people will not judge me based on the worst moment in my life.”
It was more than a moment. Sidoo was involved in the scheme over a number of months in 2011 and 2012 and again several years later.
In 2018, on a wiretapped phone call, Singer tried to sell Sidoo on hiring Riddell to write another exam, so that his son could attend graduate school.
“Yes they had conversations, but when it came to action, Mr. Sidoo did not repeat the errors of 2011 and 2012 in 2018 and in 2019,” said Sidoo’s lawyer Martin Weinberg. “Instead he turned Singer down and his son didn’t get into the school that he and mr singer were talking about.”
Weinberg reminded the court that Sidoo is eligible for four days credit, for being in the Oakland County Jail for a weekend in March 2019 after his arrest. He also said the charges caused Sidoo emotional and physical deteroriation and submitted letters from doctors at Vancouver’s Copeman Clinic to back that up. The letters in the public file were censored.
“Mr. Sidoo survived a brutal childhood with an alcoholic, violent father,” Weinberg said. “Because he was a South Indian minority, he transcended that through athletics and worked hard to build his reputation and that of his family, he’s never forgotten his roots.”
Gorton said he was impressed by Sidoo’s remorse and desire to make up for “what you called mistakes.”
But he corrected his word use.
“I would call it a crime, not a mistake,” Gorton said.
After his relatively short period of time behind bars, Gorton said Sidoo will be challenged to spend the rest of his life working hard at convincing people that this was a “one-off.”
Sidoo’s name no longer graces signage at Thunderbird Stadium and his Order of B.C. was revoked in June. He remains listed on the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame website as a member, inducted in 2017. The B.C. Place Stadium provincial sports shrine is reviewing the matter, according to a prepared statement from CEO Nicholas Cartmell.
“As an organization committed to fair process, we will proceed carefully and respectfully under the rules and regulations governing the status of any honoured member who has been convicted of a criminal offence or has brought harm, dishonour or disrepute to sport in British Columbia or to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame,” Cartmell said. “The final decision on Mr. Sidoo’s status will be determined by a full vote of the Board of Trustees after the matter has been properly deliberated in the coming weeks.”
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