A 36-year-old Harvard university graduate implicated in the college admissions scandal is being described as a "test taking whiz who could get any score on demand" according to federal prosecutors. He has been revealed to be the "secret weapon" in the college admissions cheating scandal, according to a new Wall Street Journal article.
U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, said: “He did not have inside information about the correct answers. He was just smart enough to get a near-perfect score.” Prosecutors claim that Mark Riddell was central to the cheating scheme and he has agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud and money laundering, according to court documents.
He issued a statement after the charges, stating: “I understand how my actions contributed to a loss of trust in the college admissions process.”
Prosecutors have said that William Rick Singer's admissions scheme happened over 30 times as far back as 2011 and of the 33 parents that were implicated in the scheme, at least 16 are linked to Riddell. He was described in court documents as “Cooperating Witness 2.” In hopes of leniency, he has been helping with the investigation since February.
In one case, when Riddell had a baby, one test need to be scheduled at a later date because he couldn’t make it. He had used false ID to pose as a student and he took tests on students' behalf after asking for handwriting samples. He even took a test on one student's behalf when the teen had tonsillitis and couldn't meet him at the test site. He scored him a 35 out of a possible 36 on the ACT.
Riddell is an alumnus of a private Florida prep school and Harvard, where he studied biology and played tennis before graduating in 2004. As a result of the scandal he was suspended indefinitely from his job - wait for it - as director of a college entrance exam preparation at his alma mater prep school.
Singer said that Riddell could "nail a score" of any kind. In one case when he was told not to score too high, he scored 1670 out of 2400 on the SATs for one student. He was being paid approximately $10,000 per test that he took.
He reportedly "charmed" the students he was scheming for. One parent said of her daughter: "She loves the guy. She said he was so sweet."
Late last week we reported on the tipster who gave the SEC the lead on the admissions scandal. He was in the midst of being investigated for a pump and dump scam at the time.
Earlier last week we reported that the universities involved were now facing class action lawsuits from their students. Additionally, we also reported on major tax implications that could be waiting for the parents involved - including potential civil tax fraud penalties and interest charges on any bribe amounts they wrote off.
Last week we unveiled that William Rick Singer was the man who brokered and facilitated many of the bribes.
Singer is called a "self described serial entrepreneur" who appeared to have found his niche in helping young people get into college. He was the founder of the Edge College & Career Network, the institution that helped broker bribes between the uber-wealthy and prestigious colleges. According to the company’s website, his goal was to "help alleviate the anxiety of getting into college" because he “has seen first hand the stress that the college admissions and athletics recruiting process can put on a family."
Following charges, Singer pled guilty to racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice. He is looking at between 15 and 19 1/2 years in prison for his crimes.
Our original take on the entire scandal can be read here.