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HomeBusinessDavid Sidoo guilty in U.S. college admissions scandal

David Sidoo guilty in U.S. college admissions scandal


Bob Mackin

Just over a year after he was arrested in San Jose, David Sidoo is scheduled to go before a judge in Boston to plead guilty to his role in the college admissions scandal.

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

The former Canadian Football League star, who became a wealthy oil, gas and mining investor, faced up to 20 years in jail and was tentatively scheduled for trial next January.

But filings released March 11 from the Federal Court in Boston show that Sidoo agreed with prosecutors on Feb. 6 to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. The plea bargain, if the judge accepts it, means Sidoo could face only 90 days in prison, pay a $250,000 fine and be under 12 months of supervised release.

Sidoo was released on a $1 million bond last March and pleaded not guilty to mail and wire fraud and money laundering charges. He will appear in court in Boston on March 13, according to a statement from his three lawyers.

“His desire is to seek finality to the process,” read the March 11 statement from Martin Weinberg, David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfield.

Sidoo did not immediately respond to’ phone calls to his $31.7 million Point Grey mansion or his mobile phone.

Sidoo was accused of arranging to pay consultant Rick Singer more than $200,000 for Harvard-educated tennis coach Mark Riddell to write college entrance exams for sons Dylan and Jordan Sidoo, neither of whom are charged.

Dylan Sidoo used the results from the Riddell-written test to enter Chapman University in California, but later transferred to the University of Southern California where he graduated from the film school. Jordan Sidoo entered University of California Berkeley and graduated with a history and political economy degree. Jordan Sidoo briefly worked for the Vancouver Whitecaps early last year. The brothers are two of the three founders of Inc., which markets the Vanish encrypted messaging app.

Dylan (left), David and Jordan Sidoo

Riddell pleaded guilty in April 2019 to fraud and money laundering in the scheme hatched by mastermind Singer, who admitted that he “created a side door that would guarantee families would get in” for a steep price. Singer’s methods involved faking athletic credentials and cheating on entrance exams. Payments were arranged through a charitable foundation that Singer ran.

Prosecutors alleged Riddell traveled from Tampa, Fla. to Vancouver and used false identification to pose as Dylan Sidoo to write an SAT [Scholastic Aptitude Test] test on Dec. 3, 2011 at a venue that has not been disclosed. Riddell allegedly traveled to Vancouver again, to write a test on June 9, 2012 that is described in the indictment as a “Canadian high school graduation exam.” The venue for that exam remains undisclosed.

Prosecutors supplied copies of evidence to Sidoo and his legal team in late April 2019. There was so much evidence, that it came on a hard drive and DVD. At the time, Chesnoff said Sidoo’s legal team was examining the evidence in order to “present facts about the credibility of Mr. Singer.”

Last October, a new version of the indictment against David Sidoo said that Singer drafted a false application essay in 2013 that claimed Jordan Sidoo worked as an intern with an anti-gang violence organization in Los Angeles.

The October 2013 essay falsely claimed that Jordan Sidoo had been held up at gunpoint by gang members in Los Angeles. After Singer emailed a draft to David Sidoo, he wrote back to Singer with minor changes.

“Can we lessen the interaction with the gangs. Guns …? That’s scary stuff. Your call you know what they look for,” David Sidoo wrote.

The essay, without the reference to guns, was later submitted as part of Sidoo’s younger son’s application for admission to multiple universities.

The indictment also alleged that Sidoo asked Singer if Riddell could take either the Graduate Management Admission Test or Law School Admission Test on behalf of Dylan Sidoo. Riddell agreed to pay Singer and Singer agreed to pay Riddell $100,000. But the plan went awry.

David Sidoo (left) and Justin Trudeau in 2016 (PMO)

“Singer and Riddell researched the security measures in place for both exams. On or about April 28, 2015, Singer told Sidoo that their plan to have Riddell take the LSAT in place of Sidoo’s son was ‘[n]ot happening due to fingerprinting’ requirements on the exam,” the indictment said.

In mid-December 2016, according to the indictment, Riddell wired $520 through Western Union to China to buy fraudulent drivers’ licences so he could pose as Dylan Sidoo for the GMAT. Riddell ultimately decided not to take the exam, because the fake ID was “not of high quality.”

In an email last October, Chesnoff dismissed the contents of that updated indictment. 

“These are mere allegations from the mouths of admitted fraudsters. Mr. Sidoo looks forward to his day in court,” Chesnoff said.  

Now Sidoo will go to court to plead guilty and receive a relatively light penalty.

The UBC football star who became a UBC booster, and later a BC Liberal-appointed member of the UBC board of governors, is bound to suffer, reputation-wise. He was caught paying a high price so that his sons could go to universities other than UBC, which is only a short drive from the family mansion. His sons’ California diplomas are tarnished and could be subject to revocation.

David Sidoo could be stripped of his 2016 Order of British Columbia and his name could disappear almost entirely from Thunderbird Stadium, where he donated money to upgrade the facility and help the UBC team win the Vanier Cup in 2015. Sidoo was a star defensive back on the 1982 Vanier Cup-winning UBC team.

Sidoo was the first person from British Columbia to be charged, but will be the second to plead guilty. A Surrey woman who is a Chinese citizen will be sentenced May 19.

Xiaoning Sui, 48, is expected to be sentenced to time already served in a Spanish jail after her plea bargain. She admitted guilt Feb. 21, paid a $250,000 bond to the court, was ordered to provide a DNA sample and restricted to travel within the U.S. and Canada only.

Sui was arrested in Spain last summer after paying a $400,000 bribe to have her tennis-playing son recruited to the University of California Los Angeles soccer team so that he could study there. He had no prior competitive soccer experience, but was falsely billed as a top player on two private teams in Canada.

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