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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 12, 2019

Test Taker in College Admissions Case Pleads Guilty

Defendant secretly took college entrance exams in place of students, or corrected students’ answers after they had taken the exam

BOSTON – The test taker in the college admissions case pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston in connection with accepting payments to cheat on the ACT and SAT exams, and other tests. 

Mark Riddell, 36, of Palmetto, Fla., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton scheduled sentencing for July 18, 2019 at 3:00 p.m.

From 2011 through February 2019, Riddell conspired with William “Rick” Singer and others to cheat on college entrance exams in the United States and Canada. As part of the scheme, Riddell secretly took college entrance exams in place of students, or corrected the students’ answers after they had taken the exam.

In many cases, Singer facilitated the cheating by counseling his clients to seek extended time on the exams, including by having their children purport to have learning disabilities in order to obtain the required medical documentation. Once the extended time was granted, Singer instructed the clients to change the location of the exams to one of two test centers: a public high school in Houston, Texas, or a private college preparatory school in West Hollywood, Calif.  Singer had established relationships at those locations with test administrators Niki Williams and Igor Dvorskiy, who allegedly accepted bribes of as much as $10,000 per test in order to facilitate the cheating scheme. Specifically, Williams and Dvorskiy allowed Riddell to take the exams in place of the students, to give the students the correct answers during the exams, or to correct the students’ answers after they completed the exams. Singer typically paid Riddell $10,000 for each test. Singer’s clients paid him between $15,000 and $75,000 per test, with the payments structured as purported donations to the KWF charity controlled by Singer. In many instances, the students taking the exams were unaware that their parents had arranged for the cheating.

On March 22, 2019, Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 19, 2019, at 2:00 p.m. in Boston.

Updated information about this case can be found at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/investigations-college-admissions-and-testing-bribery-scheme

The charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 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. The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of not more than $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the money laundering. 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; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric S. Rosen, Justin D. O’Connell, Leslie A. Wright and Kristen A. Kearney of Lelling’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Updated April 12, 2019