Latest Parent Named in U.S. College Scam Arrested in Spain

Patricia Hurtado
1 / 2

Latest Parent Named in U.S. College Scam Arrested in Spain

(Bloomberg) -- A Canadian woman became the latest defendant named in the college admissions scandal, as more than a dozen parents prepare for sentencing as early as next week and almost 20 others fight the charges ahead of trial.

Xiaoning Sui was arrested in Spain and charged with fraud conspiracy for allegedly paying $400,000 to get her son into the University of California at Los Angeles, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts, which is seeking her extradition to Boston. It was the Boston office that brought the sprawling case against 33 parents in March, in the biggest college cheating scam the U.S. has ever prosecuted, and added a 34th in June.

Sui becomes the 35th parent the government has named publicly, in addition to a host of testing personnel and college athletic coaches. The resident of Surrey, British Columbia, is accused of paying Rick Singer, the scam’s admitted mastermind, to get her son into UCLA as a bogus soccer recruit. Singer, who agreed to cooperate with the government and collect evidence against his clients, snared many of them in phone conversations with the FBI listening in.

Like many of the parents caught up in the sting, Sui is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud. The first to be sentenced, “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, was given two weeks in prison on Friday for paying $15,000 to get her daughter’s SAT answers changed. Some, like Sui, were accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to lock in admission to elite schools -- and may now be wondering what their own sentences will look like.

Sui, whom prosecutors identified as a 48-year-old “Chinese national,” couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the charge.

UCLA “took immediate corrective action after this case was initially outlined,” spokesman Tod Tamberg said. While the school can’t discuss the measures it took, he said, it “can revoke the admission and athletics scholarship offer of any admitted student or dismiss any enrolled student who is found to have misrepresented information on their application.” UCLA “is not aware of any currently enrolled student-athletes who are under suspicion” by the Justice Department, Tamberg said.

Read More: Felicity Huffman’s Sentence Sends Signal to Other Parents in Scandal

In an August 2018 phone call, Singer told Sui he could “guarantee” her son’s admission to UCLA in exchange for the payment, according to Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney in Massachusetts, in an indictment filed in March and unsealed Tuesday.

Between August and October, Sui provided Singer with her son’s high school transcript and photos of him playing tennis, the U.S. claims. Laura Janke, an assistant soccer coach at the University of Southern California who was working for Singer, helped him fake an athletic profile that included a photo of a different student playing competitive soccer and presented Sui’s son as a “top player” for two private clubs in Canada, according to the U.S.

Singer worked with a Chinese interpreter to keep Sui updated on her son’s application, told her it would be handled “in a special way” and assured her that her son would “not know anything is happening,” according to the government.

Sui wired a $100,000 payment to a charity Singer controlled, which he said would be paid to a UCLA coach in exchange for a seat at the college, prosecutors claim. Sui’s son was admitted to UCLA in November as a soccer recruit and awarded a 25% scholarship, and Sui sent an additional $300,000 to Singer’s charity as her final payment, the government alleges. Citing UCLA’s athletics department, The Daily Bruin, the student newspaper, has reported that the boy got a provisional acceptance in October but was never admitted.

Like Singer, Janke has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors. Jorge Salcedo, the former head coach of men’s soccer at UCLA, indicted for racketeering conspiracy, has pleaded not guilty.

Read More: New USC Parent Charged in College Scam, Hinting at Wider Probe

The college admissions scandal, which has rocked academia -- and nervous parents across America who wondered if they’d also crossed the line -- involves a total of 52 defendants, including 15 parents who pleaded guilty to the charge facing Sui.

“Now the bar is set,” said Brad Bailey, a former federal prosecutor in Boston who is in private practice, said Friday after Huffman got her sentence. In addition to her time behind bars, it includes a $30,000 fine, a year of probation and 250 hours of community service.

The 19 parents who pleaded not guilty face a more serious charge of money laundering.

None of the colleges or students were charged.

The case is U.S. v. Sui, 19-cr-10082, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

(Updates with UCLA comment in paragraph six and further analysis below.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Patricia Hurtado in Federal Court in Manhattan at pathurtado@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter Jeffrey, Peter Blumberg

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.