Here's how prosecutors believe David Sidoo allegedly conspired to get his sons into top universities

A wealthy Vancouver businessman is accused of paying $200,000 to help get his sons into top U.S. universities. Court documents reveal how prosecutors think he allegedly pulled it off.  

Sidoo accused of paying $200K to have someone write SATs for his 2 sons

David Sidoo in an interview with CBC News in 2011. (CBC)

A prominent businessman and philanthropist in B.C. is among dozens of wealthy parents implicated in a nationwide college admissions scandal in the United States. David Sidoo, 59, is accused of paying more than $200,000 to have someone write SATs for his two sons, who were ultimately accepted to prestigious universities in California based on applications citing the phony scores.

Court documents filed in the U.S. reveal how prosecutors claim David Sidoo did it:  with secrecy, fake IDs and money.

Documents describe orchestrator, a test-taker and a parent

Sidoo was charged with conspiracy to commit fraud on March 5, accused of working with the orchestrator of the entire U.S. nationwide scheme.

Officials said Sidoo agreed to pay William Rick Singer to have someone take three tests for his sons: one SAT each and a Canadian high school graduation exam for the elder son.

Singer has pleaded guilty to being the so-called ringleader at the head of the admissions scandal, having taken millions from more than 30 parents in exchange for boosting their children's chances of getting accepted to leading American schools.

Prosecutors said Singer chose Mark Riddell, another one of his alleged co-conspirators, to write SATs for Sidoo's sons.

Fake IDs used to impersonate teenage sons: prosecutors

Riddell is well-versed in the tests, having worked as a "devoted" adviser helping students prepare for SATs and ACTs — standard college admissions exams in the U.S. — at IMG Academy, an elite sports-oriented high school in Bradenton, Fla., for 13 years.

IMG Academy has since suspended Riddell indefinitely, according to a statement emailed to CBC News.

At a news conference on Tuesday, U.S. officials described Riddell as "just smart enough to get a near-perfect [test] score on demand" or calibrate a desired score.

Capability aside, Sidoo and Singer needed to figure out how to get Riddell, then about 29 years old, into the exam room in the place of the two teenagers.

Prosecutors said Sidoo and Singer worked together to create fake IDs.

William 'Rick' Singer leaves the federal courthouse after facing charges in a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme in Boston, Mass. on Tuesday. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Sidoo allegedly sent copies of his son's real identification, like their drivers' licences, so Singer could make fake ones for Riddell.

The indictment said those ID's showed Riddell's photo, but Sidoos' sons' names.

Prosecutors said Riddell flew from Tampa, Fla., to Vancouver to take the first SAT for Sidoo's older son on Dec. 3, 2011, having been directed not to get "too high" a score so it would appear believable.

Riddell was hired again to take a high school exam for the same son six months later on June 9, 2012. Again, prosecutors said he flew from Tampa to Vancouver to write the test.

Both of Sidoo's sons attended St. George's School, a prestigious private school in Vancouver. In a statement, the school said it has launched its own internal investigation.

The indictment said Sidoo paid another $100,000 to have Riddell write a SAT in Los Angeles, this time for his younger son, that same fall.

Court documents said Singer paid more than $5,500 to cover Riddell's travel costs.

The indictment said Sidoo wired payments to Singer's company bank account in January 2013. None of the allegations against Sidoo have been proven in court.

Mark Riddell worked as an exam-prep adviser at a prestigious sports-oriented high school in Florida until he was suspended in light of a nationwide college admissions scandal in the United States. He's accused of writing three exams — two SATs and a high school graduation test — for two sons of a Vancouver-based businessman. (IMG Academy)

Sidoo's sons were ultimately accepted to elite universities in California based on applications citing those SAT scores. The younger son enrolled at the University of California-Berkeley, while the elder was accepted at the private Chapman University.

Riddell was charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering earlier this month. Singer has pleaded guilty to the charges against him.

On Tuesday, U.S. officials said other parents accused of working with Singer spent hundreds of thousands of dollars — some as much as $6.5 million — to guarantee their children's admission to leading schools.

According to another indictment filed against Singer in the U.S., test-takers were paid an average of $10,000 per exam.

Sidoo was released on conditions after appearing in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif. earlier this month. The fraud charge against him is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

David Sidoo has been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud in the aftermath of a college admissions bribery scandal in the United States. (davidsidoo.com)

'Don't rush to judgment,' lawyer says

A statement from Sidoo's lawyer, Richard Shonfeld, carried a reminder that his client is innocent until proven otherwise and that Sidoo intended to plead not guilty when he appears in federal court in Boston on Friday.

"The charge that has been lodged against David is an allegation that carries with it the presumption that he is innocent," read an emailed statement.

"We look forward to presenting our case in court and ask that people don't rush to judgment in the meantime."

The lawyer also said Sidoo's children "have not been accused of any impropriety and have achieved great accomplishments in their own right."

U.S. District Attorney Andrew Lelling said the investigation is ongoing, as American officials believe other parents were involved in the scheme.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story mistakenly said David Sidoo appeared in federal court in Boston, Mass. earlier this month. In fact, his court appearance was in San Jose, Calif.
    Mar 15, 2019 7:51 AM PT

About the Author

Rhianna Schmunk

@rhiannaschmunk

Rhianna Schmunk is a reporter for CBC News based in Vancouver. Reach her at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca or on Twitter. @rhiannaschmunk

With files from the Associated Press