Former Houston Independent School District Employee Pleads Guilty in College Admissions Case
BOSTON – A former employee of the Houston Independent School District pleaded guilty today in connection with her involvement in a scheme to use bribery and fraud to facilitate cheating on the ACT and SAT exams.
Niki D. Williams, 46, of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and honest services wire fraud and mail fraud. U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani scheduled sentencing for Dec. 21, 2020. According to the terms of the plea agreement, the government will recommend a sentence at the low end of the sentencing guidelines, one year of supervised release, a fine, forfeiture in the amount of $20,000 and restitution.
Williams administered the SAT and ACT exams at the public high school in Houston where she worked. In exchange for bribe payments directed to her by co-conspirators William “Rick” Singer and Martin Fox, and in violation of her duty of honest services to the ACT and the College Board, Williams allowed another co-conspirator, Mark Riddell, to secretly take ACT and SAT tests in place of the children of Singer’s clients or to replace their exam answers with his own corrected answers. Williams then returned the falsified exams to the ACT and College Board for scoring.
Singer, Riddell and Fox previously pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the government’s investigation. Williams is the 41st defendant to plead guilty in this case.
Case information, including the status of each defendant, charging documents and plea agreements are available here: https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/investigations-college-admissions-and-testing-bribery-scheme.
The charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud provides for a sentence of up 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Joleen Simpson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; and Mark Deckett, Resident Agent in Charge of the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric S. Rosen, Justin D. O’Connell, Leslie A. Wright, Kristen A. Kearney, Stephen E. Frank and Karin M. Bell of Lelling’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.