- Thirty-three parents were charged on Tuesday in what the Department of Justice described as a scheme to bribe their children’s way into elite colleges.
- Prosecutors say key to that scheme was 36-year-old Mark Riddell, who they’re accusing of either helping students cheat on the SAT or ACT, or taking the exam for them in exchange fees up to $US10,000 per kid.
- After the charges were revealed, Riddell was “suspended indefinitely” from his job as director of college entrance exam preparation at IMG Academy, a private school for athletes in Bradenton, Florida.
A Harvard graduate who was briefly a professional tennis player emerged as a key figure in the college admissions scandal that ensnared actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, along with dozens of other parents and coaches on Tuesday.
Prosecutors said Riddell would help a student while they were taking the test, change their answers after, or take the test for them so that they would get a sufficiently high score to get them into the college of their choosing.
Riddell was able to do this not because he was able to get the answers from the test organisations, but because “he was just a really smart guy,” Andrew Lelling, the US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said at a press conference announcing the charges.
William “Rick” Singer, who prosecutors say ran the operation, boasted that Riddell was the “best test-taker” and could “nail a score – he’s that good,” according to the charging documents.
After the scheme was revealed on Tuesday, his employer, IMG Academy announced Riddell was “suspended indefinitely” from his job as director of college entrance exam preparation.
Hollywood actresses and the wealthy are accused of paying to get their kids into elite colleges by cheating on exams and faking athletic skills. Here’s how investigators say the scheme worked.
IMG Academy is a private high school for athletes in Brandenton, Florida, perhaps most famous for its professional tennis alumni including Maria Sharapova and the Williams sisters.
Riddell himself attended the school before playing Division 1 tennis at Harvard University.
After Harvard, Riddell briefly played professional tennis for about a year, going 0-10 and winning $US892 in prize money, according to Association of Tennis Professionals records.
His biography on the IMG Academy website, which has since been taken down, said he started working at the school in 2006.
In it, he boasted about helping “thousand of students in gaining admission to top American universities such as Stanford, Duke, Columbia, Dartmouth, University of Chicago, and many other notable institutions.”
According to the Washington Post, Riddell married a fellow Harvard alumni and helped direct the local Harvard Club of Sarasota.
Riddell is expected to appear in federal court in Boston Wednesday, to be arraigned on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He has been cooperating with the investigation since February “in the hope of obtaining lenience when he is sentenced,” according to the affidavit.
- Read more:
- A private equity firm executive had his son pose as a football kicker on USC applications, despite his high school not having a football team
- A former CEO’s daughter was allegedly listed as co-captain of a Japanese national soccer team as part of a $US25 million college admission scheme
- The FBI busted rich parents for allegedly bribing their kids into elite schools. Here’s the not-so-secret way the superrich game college admissions.
- Meet the alleged ringleader of the massive college-admissions scandal, William ‘Rick’ Singer, the owner of Edge College & Career Network
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.