BOSTON – A former Florida prep school administrator who took college entrance exams for students in exchange for cash to help wealthy parents get their kids into elite universities is facing sentencing.
Judge Nathaniel Gorton is slated to hand down the decision against Mark Riddell in Boston federal court on Friday.
Riddell admitted to secretly taking the ACT and SAT in place of students, or correcting their answers, as part of a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme which has ensnared celebrities, business executives and athletic coaches at sought-after schools such as Stanford and Yale.
Riddell, who had been cooperating with federal authorities in hopes of getting a lesser sentence, pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges in April 2019.
U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins’ office, in a filing ahead of Friday’s hearing, has asked the judge to sentence Riddell to four months in prison, followed by two years of supervised release and a previously-ordered forfeiture judgment of nearly $240,000.
Riddell’s lawyers, in their own sentencing memo, argued for one to two months in prison. They also note he’s paid nearly $166,000 toward the forfeiture obligation.
The Harvard graduate, who emerged as a key figure in the wide-ranging scandal, has previously said he’s “profoundly sorry” and takes full responsibility for his actions.
Riddell oversaw college entrance exam preparation at IMG Academy, a school in Bradenton, Florida, founded by renowned tennis coach Nick Bollettieri that bills itself as the world’s largest sports academy. Riddell has since been fired.
Authorities say the admissions consultant at the center of the scheme, Rick Singer, bribed test administrators to allow Riddell to pretend to proctor the exams for students so he could cheat on the tests. Singer typically paid Riddell $10,000 per test to rig the scores, prosecutors said.
Riddell made more than $200,000 by cheating on over 25 exams, prosecutors said.
Since March 2019, a parade of wealthy parents have pleaded guilty to paying big bucks to help get their kids into school with rigged test scores or bogus athletic credentials in a case prosecutors dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.
The group — including TV actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli — have received punishments ranging from probation to nine months behind bars.
A Boston jury is also deliberating Friday on the fate of Jovan Vavic, a decorated former water polo coach at the University of Southern California. He’s the only coach of the many implicated to challenge his role in the scheme in a trial.
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