The Surrey, B.C. woman who pleaded guilty in the U.S. college admissions scandal was sentenced May 18 to time already served in a Spanish jail.
Xiaoning Sui, a 49-year-old citizen of China, appeared by videoconference before U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodcock, who fined Sui $250,000. Sui consented to the fine in February when she agreed to plead guilty and also forfeit the $400,000 bribe she paid to ringleader Rick Singer in order to arrange her son’s admission to the University of California Los Angeles.
Sui was arrested last September while traveling in Spain, with a return ticket to Canada. She spent 157 days in Madrid V Penitentiary Centre, Soto del Real.
“One aggravating factor here is that Singer specifically told Sui that he intended to provide at least a portion of her payment to the UCLA soccer coach personally,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling wrote in his memorandum to the court. “In addition, Sui’s son was awarded a 25 percent tuition scholarship as a result of the scheme, even though he did not play soccer at all. At the same time, unlike the other defendants, Sui served five months in a foreign prison, where she did not speak the language and was unable to communicate effectively with guards or fellow inmates.”
When Sui was first introduced to Singer by telephone in August 2018, Singer’s phone was being monitored by a court-authorized wiretap. During the phone call, via a Mandarin interpreter, Singer informed Sui “that he would need to write her son’s application in a ‘special way’ to have his admission ‘guaranteed’.”
In early September 2018, Singer created a false soccer profile for Sui’s son, that described him as an elite soccer player. He was really a tennis player. By November of 2018, Sui’s son was approved for admission and awarded the scholarship.
The scholarship was later revoked and he did not attend UCLA. Soccer coach Jorge Salcedo agreed to plead guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge.
A victim impact statement from UCLA said Sui’s conduct “has undermined the hard work of UC (University of California) faculty and staff who have endeavoured over the years to fashion an equitable and merit-based admissions process.”
Sui’s lawyer, Martin Weinberg, told the court in his memorandum that the Shanghai-native was born Oct. 5, 1970 and raised in a middle class home by a college professor father and engineer mother. The family moved in 1981 to Nanjing in Jiangsu province where Sui received a bachelor’s degree in electronics from the Panda Electronic Technology College. She worked nearly a decade as a technician in a TV/electronics factory, married in 1998 and gave birth to their only son, Eric, in 2000.
Sui received permanent residency in Canada in 2014 and moved to Canada in 2015, where her son attended high school and is now in first year of college.
Sui helped her sister and niece move to Canada. Her husband continues to live and work in China and financially provide for the family. Sui and her son regularly travel to China during winter and summer school breaks.
The husband was no implicated in the UCLA bribe case and his name was not disclosed in Weinberg’s statement. Small claims court records in B.C. indicate he is Qiran Li, a co-defendant with Sui in a claim filed in 2017 by DK Conquest Luxury Rentals Inc. for almost $23,000 after a BMW M5 from the high-end luxury car subscription service was severely damaged.
Sui and Li are listed on the small claims action at different South Surrey addresses. One property was worth $2.99 million, the other $1.31 million. Court documents filed by the defence in the college admissions scandal case say Sui requested her husband donate RMB 2 million ($280,000) to combat the novel coronavirus, but the name of the recipient of the donation was not mentioned.
Weinberg’s memo said there was no evidence that Sui was involved in fabricating the athletic profile for her son’s college applications, nor did she have any knowledge that a bribe was necessary to secure her son’s admission to UCLA.
Sui was in quasi-isolation in the Spanish jail, without any other Mandarin speakers. She took medication to treat anxiety and sleeplessness she suffered in the Spanish jail.
“Ms. Sui’s conditions of confinement were harsh, isolating, and far more punitive than what any of the related parent-defendants have been subject to,” Weinberg wrote.
Weinberg also represents David Sidoo, the first British Columbian arrested and charged, is scheduled to be sentenced July 15. Sidoo pleaded guilty before a judge in March to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. The terms of the plea bargain, if the judge accepts them, mean Sidoo could face only 90 days in prison, pay a $250,000 fine and be under 12 months of supervised release. If his case had gone to trial and Sidoo been convicted, he could have faced up to 20 years in jail.
However, after Sui’s case, Sidoo is unlikely to face 12 months of supervised release.
Lelling’s memorandum said the probation department advised the parties that a 12-month, post-conviction supervision of Sui could not be accomplished if the defendant resides in Canada.
“Consistent with probation’s recommendation, the parties do not object to excluding a term of supervised release from the sentence imposed,” he wrote.”
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