Mark Riddell, one of the key pieces to the largest ever college admissions scandal, pleaded guilty before a federal judge in Boston late last week after arranging a deal with federal prosecutors. Riddell pleaded to fraud conspiracy and money laundering and faces 33 to 41 months in prison as a result. As part of his deal, he admitted to conspiring with William Rick Singer, the scam's ringleader.
Riddell is hoping for leniency at his sentencing as part of his plea deal. He has also agreed to forfeit $239,449. Prosecutors claim that Riddell was central to the cheating scheme.
“I’m being charged with conspiracy to commit fraud for cheating on the SAT and ACT,” Riddell admitted to the judge on Friday afternoon. Riddell previously said last month:
“I will always regret the choices I made, but I do also believe that the more than 1,000 students I legitimately counseled, inspired and helped reach their goals will paint a more complete picture of the person I truly am.”
Riddell had been referred to as the "secret weapon" in the college admissions cheating scandal. U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, said last month: “He did not have inside information about the correct answers. He was just smart enough to get a near-perfect score.”
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 as director of a college entrance exam preparation at his alma mater prep school.
Scheme ringleader Singer had previously said of Riddell that he could "nail a [test] 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.
Riddell isn't the only one who may face prison time. 16 parents were also recently indicted in the scandal last week. Two weeks ago, we noted that parents charged in the scheme were seeking out "prison life consultants" to find out what life would be like in the big house.
We have been following the admissions scandal at length. As part of our coverage, we detailed how financial speaking gigs and elite high schools helped facilitate the scam for years. We've also covered the fallout from the scandal, like when UCLA's Men's Soccer Coach and former U.S. Men's national team player Jorge Salcedo recently resigned from his position at the university as a result of taking bribes. We also wrote about how students were being encouraged to fake learning disabilities in order to cheat on college entrance exams.