Father of UC Berkeley alumnus charged in college admissions scandal

Aura Barrera/Staff

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Among the 50 individuals implicated in a nationwide college admissions scandal is David Sidoo — a Vancouver businessman and prominent figure in the University of British Columbia athletics program — who allegedly paid a test-taker to sit his son’s SAT exam to help him gain admission to UC Berkeley.

Sidoo faces charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and is scheduled to appear in a Boston federal court Friday. He is one of dozens of parents, exam administrators, businesspeople and athletic coaches from Stanford University, the University of Southern California, Georgetown University and other schools who were charged in federal court Tuesday after the FBI completed its investigation, code-named “Operation Varsity Blues.”

The alleged scam involved bribing both ACT and SAT exam administrators to correct students’ test answers or allow other people to take the tests for them. The conspiracy also allegedly involved athletic coaches and administrators to ease the process of admissions for prospective students.

“I was disappointed to read about the level of corruption that has been found to be a part of the college admissions process,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Nuha Khalfay in an email. “I think it is both ridiculous and overwhelmingly unacceptable that this has been happening.”

Sidoo allegedly paid a total of $200,000 through wire transfer for someone to take SAT tests in place of his two sons in 2011 and 2012. Sidoo’s younger son then allegedly sent the false test scores to Yale University, Georgetown University and UC Berkeley, the latter of which he enrolled at in 2014.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in a statement that integrity in the admissions process is “critically important.” She added that students who do not follow the UC Statement of Application Integrity are subject to having their admissions offers revoked, being dismissed from campus or even having their diplomas revoked.

Gilmore noted that the indictment names colleges and universities among “the victims of the crimes committed,” adding that all members of the campus community are expected to conduct themselves ethically.

Sidoo’s lawyers released a brief statement on his behalf, reaffirming the presumption of his innocence in the court process while maintaining that Sidoo’s philanthropy is a “true testament to his character.”

Though UC Berkeley staff and faculty members have not been implicated in the scandal, staff members at other universities have been charged as part of the scheme. Such is the case with Stanford’s former head sailing coach John Vandemoer, who pleaded guilty to designating two applicants as recruits for the team in exchange for $110,000 and $500,000, respectively, which went toward the sailing program.

Many of the cases, such as Vandemoer’s, are connected to businessman William “Rick” Singer, who was charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice; he pleaded guilty Tuesday. Between roughly 2011 and 2019, Singer worked with 13 coaches, 33 parents and two test administrators to guarantee students admission to prestigious universities.

As a cover for the alleged scam, Singer allegedly founded the for-profit college counseling business Edge College & Career Network LLC, or The Key. Along with founding The Key, Singer was also CEO of the Key Worldwide Foundation, a purported charity organization that allegedly served as a cover for the bribe payments.

“This case is about the widening corruption in college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud, said Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, in a press conference. “There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy, and I’ll add that there will not be a separate criminal justice system, either.”

Contact Clara Rodas at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ClaraRodas10.