Accused test taker in college scandal set to plead guilty, while Loughlin says she’s ‘not ready’
BOSTON — A Florida prep school administrator is set to plead guilty to taking entrance exams for students in a nationwide college admissions bribery scheme.
Mark Riddell is due to enter guilty pleas Friday afternoon to one count each of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering at federal court in Boston.
The 36-year-old Riddell oversaw college entrance exam preparation at IMG Academy, a Bradenton school founded by renowned tennis coach Nick Bollettieri that bills itself as the world’s largest sports academy.
Documents say Riddell secretly took exams for students or replaced their answers with his own. Prosecutors say he typically was paid $10,000 per test.
Riddell was charged with nearly 50 other people, including celebrities and wealthy parents who allegedly paid bribes to get their children into elite U.S. colleges.
Riddell could have faced up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but prosecutors are recommending incarceration and a fine at the low end of guidelines.
According to federal prosecutors, Riddell played a key role in an arrangement hatched by William “Rick” Singer, an admissions consultant accused of orchestrating the scheme for years while catering to a rich clientele that included Hollywood stars and business executives.
Among dozens of others charged in the scandal are actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin; Loughlin’s husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli; college sports coaches; athletic administrators; and CEOs.
Huffman will plead guilty May 21 to paying an admissions consultant $15,000 to rig her daughter’s SAT score. Prosecutors have said they will seek a prison sentence on the low end of a range of four to 10 months.
Lori Loughlin, husband ‘not ready’ to plea
Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are “not ready” to enter a plea for their alleged role in the college admissions scandal, a source close to the actress said.
“They are not ready to make a plea like Felicity (Huffman) and go down that road. They are hoping to just let this play out in the judicial system. They are innocent until proven guilty,” a source close to Loughlin told CNN.
“They wish the media would just leave them alone. They feel like there is no story and don’t understand why the press keep hounding them and following Lori to yoga.”
The couple appeared last week in federal court in Boston but have not publicly indicated how they plan to plead.
Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 to a fake charity to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though the daughters did not participate in the sport.
They have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and an additional charge of money laundering.
Earlier this week, they were also accused of conspiring to launder bribes and other payments through a charity run by Rick Singer, the mastermind of the scam, as well as transferring money into the United States to promote the fraud, prosecutors said.
The charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud are punishable by a maximum 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 is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, according to federal officials.