Canadian businessman to plead guilty in U.S. college admissions scandal

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Canadian businessman who once played professional football pleaded guilty on Friday to participating in a vast U.S. college admissions cheating and fraud scheme in order to rig the results of his sons’ SAT exams.

David Sidoo, a Vancouver businessman and former Canadian Football League player, leaves the federal courthouse after entering a plea in connection with a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Katherine Taylor

Federal prosecutors in Boston say that David Sidoo, a Vancouver energy executive and former player in the Canadian Football League, paid $200,000 to have someone secretly take the college entrance exam in place of his two sons.

Sidoo, 60, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud under a plea agreement that calls for him to serve a 90-day prison sentence and pay a $250,000 fine. He is scheduled to be sentenced on July 15. His attorney declined to comment.

Sidoo is among 53 people charged with participating in a scheme in which parents conspired with a California college admissions consultant to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure the admission of their children to top schools.

William “Rick” Singer, the consultant, pleaded guilty in March 2019 to charges he facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and helped bribe university sports coaches to present his clients’ children as fake athletic recruits.

The 36 parents charged since March 2019 include “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman, who was sentenced in September to 14 days in prison, and “Full House” star Lori Loughlin, who is scheduled to face trial in October.

Prosecutors said Sidoo paid Singer $200,000 to have an associate pose as his two sons in order to take the SAT entrance exam in their place in 2011 and 2012.

The associate was Mark Riddell, a Florida private school counselor who has pleaded guilty to taking SAT and ACT college entrance exams in place of Singer’s clients’ children or correcting their answers while acting as a test proctor.

Prosecutors said the SAT scores Riddell secretly obtained on behalf of Sidoo’s sons were then submitted on applications to U.S. universities, including Georgetown University and Chapman University.

With Friday’s hearing, Sidoo became the 22nd parent and 32nd defendant overall to plead guilty to participating in the wide-spread scheme.

No students to date have been charged, though prosecutors have not ruled out that possibility. In court on Friday, though, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen said prosecutors have no plans to charge any other members of Sidoo’s family.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Richard Chang