Test Taker in College Admissions Case Sentenced
Defendant secretly took college entrance exams in place of students, or corrected students’ answers after they had taken the exam
BOSTON – A test taker who played a critical role in the college admissions case was sentenced today in federal court in Boston in connection with accepting nearly $240,000 in payments to cheat on the ACT and SAT exams, and other tests.
Mark Riddell, 39, of Palmetto, Fla., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to four months in prison and two years of supervised release. Riddell was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and forfeit $239,449 – of which, the government has already collected $165,878. In April 2019, Riddell 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.
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 through the use of fake IDs with the student’s name but his picture with their registration. In other instances, he also posed as a proctor and 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 admitted to accepting bribes of $5,000 to $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 Key Worldwide Foundation charity Singer controlled or as purported consulting fees to his for-profit business The Key. In many instances, the students taking the exams were unaware that their parents had arranged for the cheating.
In total, Riddell received just under $240,000 for inflating scores for 24 students on 27 exams over the course of eight years.
Singer and Dvorskiy previously pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Williams pled guilty and was sentenced in December 2020 to one year of probation and was ordered to pay forfeiture of $12,500.
Case information, including the status of each defendant, is available here: https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/investigations-college-admissions-and-testing-bribery-scheme.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Joleen Simpson, 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 Leslie A. Wright and Kristen A. Kearney of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.