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HomeBusinessExclusive: Prosecutor says fraudster David Sidoo cheated and stole, friends say he’s sorry and generous

Exclusive: Prosecutor says fraudster David Sidoo cheated and stole, friends say he’s sorry and generous


Bob Mackin

The lead prosecutor in the U.S. college admissions scandal said Vancouver oil and gas investor David Sidoo stole two college admissions slots for his sons in a $200,000 fraud scheme.

Dylan (left), David and Jordan Sidoo

“By cheating on his son’s admissions test and fabricating his application essay, Sidoo deprived a deserving student of the opportunity to attend that elite school. In addition, Sidoo’s conduct was not just limited to paying money,” wrote U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling in a scathing sentencing memorandum filed on July 10. “Rather, Sidoo took an active role in facilitating the fraudulent scheme by sending [ringleader Rick] Singer documents and biographical information that allowed Singer to create multiple fake identification cards that [proctor Mark] Riddell used to pose as Sidoo’s sons for the exams.”

July 10 is, coincidentally, Sidoo’s birthday. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 15 for one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. His plea bargain was reached at the end of January, and made public in March. Pending a judge’s approval, Sidoo will serve 90 days in a minimum security prison and pay a $250,000 fine. A 12-month probation term is expected to be waived, because the court cannot enforce it outside the U.S.

Lelling’s sentencing memorandum also states that Riddell flew to Vancouver to pose as Dylan Sidoo for a December 2011 SAT exam. He returned in summer 2012 to take Dylan Sidoo’s high school exam. In fall 2013, David Sidoo and Singer crafted a college application essay that falsely claimed Sidoo’s oldest son had been held-up at gunpoint by a Los Angeles street gang and rescued by a rival gangster named “Nugget.” In 2015 and 2016, Riddell, Singer and David Sidoo explored cheating on other graduate school admissions tests, but abandoned their plan.

David Sidoo (left), Blake Nill (second from right) and Amrik Virk (third from right) celebrating UBC’s Vanier Cup win in 2015. (BC Gov)

Dylan Sidoo eventually entered Chapman University, but transferred to the University of Southern California.

Riddell also wrote the SAT on behalf of Jordan Sidoo in December 2012, who gained admission to and enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley.

“Sidoo engaged in serious criminal conduct involving fraud and deception that stretched over multiple years. His crimes warrant significant punishment,” Lelling wrote.

In the defence submission, Sidoo’s lawyer calls the guilty Vancouver investor and philanthropist a first-time offender without a criminal past who will continue to suffer after he serves his sentence.

“Mr. Sidoo is a 61-year-old man who made a tremendous mistake, out of misplaced love for his sons, that is inconsistent with his entire personal life story,” wrote Martin Weinberg in his July 10 submission. “Mr. Sidoo has and will pay a significant price for his conduct in this case. He will serve a period of incarceration, he will be excluded from the United States, and his reputation in the community that he has supported for many years is now significantly tarnished. Furthermore, Mr. Sidoo has suffered both physically and mentally.”

Until Sidoo negotiated the plea bargain, he had steadfastly maintained his innocence.

Sidoo posted a photo on his website in April, preparing to donate masks and sanitizer to Downtown Eastside homeless.

He was arrested in San Jose in March 2019, released after three days in jail on a $1 million bond and charged for paying more than $200,000 to have an impostor write exams for his sons, both St. George’s boys school alumni.

If the case went to trial, Sidoo could have been jailed up to 20 years.

Former Canadian Football League player Sidoo lives in a $31.7 million mansion on Belmont in Point Grey, a Vancouver neighbourhood often called “Billionaires’ Row.” Massachusetts Judge Nathaniel Gorton is allowing Sidoo to appear July 15 via Zoom videoconferencing, due to coronavirus pandemic travel restrictions.

Neither of the sons has been charged. Neither of the two California universities where they graduated has disclosed whether the diplomas tainted by their father’s fraud will be cancelled. 

“Mr. Sidoo is not accused of funnelling money through Key Worldwide Foundation to be provided to the schools, nor is he accused of having [ringleader Rick] Singer create false sports accolades,” Weinberg wrote.

“Mr. Sidoo has pled guilty to providing funds to Key Worldwide Foundation in exchange for Mark Riddell writing the SAT exam for his sons. In fact [Dylan Sidoo] transferred to [USC] without Mr. Sidoo seeking any assistance of Mr. Singer or anyone in the Athletics Department. Accordingly, the sentence of 90 days in custody is consistent with the above stated sentences when the relative conduct is contrasted.”

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

Weinberg also wrote that Sidoo is no danger to the public, is remorseful and has remained compliant while on bail. Details of Sidoo’s alleged physical and emotional deterioration were censored from the public document.

Weinberg pointed to some of Sidoo’s recent losses. In March, University of B.C. said it would remove Sidoo’s name from the scoreboard and field at Thunderbird Stadium, where Sidoo starred with the 1982 Vanier Cup-winning football team.

In June, Sidoo lost his 2016-awarded Order of British Columbia.

The Ministry of Education told that it has not been involved in this case and there has been no internal investigation into the exam cheating in B.C.

Sidoo’s submission to the court includes 18 character reference letters from many prominent individuals.

In an April 27 letter, former B.C. Supreme Court judge and former BC Liberal. Attorney General Wally Oppal said his 35-year acquaintance Sidoo is a “person of impeccable character and has an excellent reputation in this province.”

Former federal Liberal cabinet minister Herb Dhaliwal called him “an individual who fulfils his commitments.”

Thunderbird Stadium’s field was named for David Sidoo (Mackin)

Another letter came from Amrik Virk, the former Mountie who was the Advanced Education Minister when BC Liberal donor Sidoo was appointed to the UBC board of governors in 2014. Virk, a one-term BC Liberal MLA from Surrey, wrote that Sidoo has “repeated expressed remorse privately and publicly,” though he did not mention where and when Sidoo did so publicly.

“While I am in no way competent to offer a medical diagnosis, I am privy to and witnessed the deterioration in his physical and mental health,” Virk wrote. “While the media may portray the resilient, successful businessman facing judgement I have observed the effects on his spouse and children. I do not intend to paint him as a victim but merely to highlight the obvious impacts observed.”

Virk’s letter does not mention that he joined the Sidoo family’s Meridius Resources junior mining company as a director in 2019.

Other letters came from CFL and NFL hall of fame quarterback Warren Moon, Michael O’Connor, a 2019 Toronto Argonauts rookie drafted from UBC, Bobby Singh, the only player with Super Bowl, Grey Cup and XFL championship rings, former UBC head coach Frank Smith, and current UBC head coach Blake Nill.

Sidoo’s 13th Man Foundation booster club recruited O’Connor to join the UBC Thunderbirds in 2015 from Penn State and helped fund the program toward its Vanier Cup title that year.

TSN 1040 host Bob Marjanovich and TSN football reporter Farhan Lalji also chimed in.

Lalji, who coaches the New Westminster Secondary varsity football team, wrote on the team’s letterhead that Sidoo has donated $100,000 to the school and football program over 17 years. Lalji wrote that “inaccurate narratives have been created well outside the bounds of this case and many people have rushed to judgment.”

David Sidoo’s defence filings include a letter from one NDP cabinet minister and a certificate from another.

Marjanovich, who first met Sidoo during their high school days in 1978, wrote: “His improper actions have hurt the ones he loves the most and nothing can ever change that.”

The Sidoo file also includes a 2012 letter from now-NDP Energy and Mines minister Bruce Ralston congratulating Sidoo for a philanthropy award and a 2016 certificate of achievement from now-Attorney General David Eby, the NDP MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, for receiving the Order of B.C.

Sidoo was the first person from British Columbia to be charged in the U.S. college admissions scandal, but the second to be sentenced.

A Surrey woman who is a Chinese citizen was sentenced to time already served in a Spanish jail. Xiaoning Sui, 48, admitted guilt in February and was fined $250,000 fine after five months behind bars.

Sui paid Singer 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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