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Mastermind of college cheating scandal gets 3.5 years in prison

Rick Singer's client Vancouver businessman David Sidoo agreed to pay US$200,000 for co-conspirator, Mark Riddell, to "secretly take the SAT" in place of his sons.
David Sidoo. Photo by Dan Toulgoet/Vancouver Courier files

The man who orchestrated fraudulent tests for Vancouver businessman David Sidoo’s two sons has been sentenced to more than three years in prison, bringing to close enforcement actions of the U.S. college admissions scheme.

William “Rick” Singer, 62, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel to 42 months in prison and three years of supervised release on Jan. 4, following his March 2019 admissions to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.

“Rick Singer was the architect of a sprawling criminal enterprise that corrupted the admissions process at several of the nation’s most elite universities… He courted the entitled, rich and famous, who were so desperate for their children to secure college admission, that they lied, cheated and bribed to get them in,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins in a statement.

Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Boston Division, said Singer rigged an admissions system to allow far less qualified students to buy their way into elite U.S. universities.

“Fuelled by pure and simple greed,” Bonavolonta said Singer “raked in millions of dollars.”

Among Singer’s clients was Sidoo, who, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, agreed to pay Singer US$200,000 for co-conspirator, Mark Riddell, to "secretly take the SAT in place of Sidoo’s sons Dylan and Jordan."

Neither Dylan nor Jordan were part of Sidoo's arrangements with Singer.

Upon his arrest in March 2019, Sidoo initially pleaded not guilty but changed his plea in March 2020 by admitting one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. That scheme resulted in a US$10.7-million restitution order against Singer. Sidoo was jailed in Washington State for three months in the fall of 2020 and ordered to pay a fine of $250,000. As a felon, he’s no longer admissible to the U.S.

College degrees remain advertised

It's not clear how Riddell took Dylan and Jordan’s tests. The B.C. Ministry of Education previously told Glacier Media that in 2012, identification was not required for test takers. The ministry said it bolstered its ID requirements in 2014.

Both Dylan, 28, and Jordan, 26, attended St. George’s School, a private school in Vancouver. The school told Glacier Media it “took the matter very seriously and conducted a thorough investigation in March of 2019,” however, “our review of records from 2012 indicated that there were no school or provincial exams written at St. George’s School by the student in question on or around the date named in the indictment.”

Jordan is a 2018 history graduate from the University of California, Berkeley. Dylan graduated in cinematic arts in 2016 from the University of Southern California (USC).

Dylan, according to the sentencing documents, had scored a 1,460/2,400 SAT score until Riddell, using a fake ID in December 2011, bumped up the score to 1,700, which was high enough for Dylan to enter Chapman University (and later transfer to USC). Riddell scored 2,280/2,400 for Jordan in December 2012, paving his way to attend Berkeley.

Citing privacy reasons, the colleges will not disclose whether or not the Sidoos’ degrees remain valid. Dylan and Jordan maintain their credentials on their respective website and work profiles.

Sidoo awaiting U.S. securities fraud case

Sidoo and seven other men currently face allegations from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for orchestrating a complex, international stock manipulation scheme that generated at least $145 million in illicit profits.

Sidoo is charged by the SEC in civil proceedings with fraud in the offer or sale of securities, fraud in the purchase or sale of securities and unregistered offerings of securities for his alleged part in two “pump and dump” operations.

“Sidoo used offshore omnibus vehicles and front companies to conceal the fact that he was the beneficiary of stock sales and failed both to disclose his beneficial ownership and trading and to register his stock sales as legally required,” the commission alleges.

The complaint states that Sidoo’s North American Oil and Gas Corp. generated U.S. $15.23 million in illicit proceeds between July 2013 and August 2014. In contrast, American Helium Inc. generated U.S. $1.45 million between March 2018 and February 2020.

The case has been temporarily stayed so authorities can handle criminal charges against co-defendants.

Glacier Media contacted Sidoo Family Giving and BMEX but did not receive a response.

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