UCLA mom charged with paying $400K to get son admitted as fake soccer recruit

Joey Garrison, USA TODAY

BOSTON — A mother from Canada was arrested Monday night in Spain and indicted in the U.S. for paying $400,000 to get her son admitted into the University of California-Los Angles as a fake soccer recruit.

Xiaoning Sui, 48, is the 35th parent and 52nd defendant charged with crimes in the nation's college admissions scandal.

In a federal indictment unsealed in Boston federal court Tuesday, Sui was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Sui is a Chinese national who has been living in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada near Vancouver. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts said she is currently detained in Spain and authorities are seeking her extradition to Boston to face the charges.

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Prosecutors alleged the mastermind of the admissions scheme, Rick Singer, through a translator, told Sui in an August 2018 phone conversation her son would be "guaranteed" entry into UCLA with a $400,000 payment that would require Singer to write his application in a "special way."

Sui provided Singer with photographs of her son playing tennis and his high school transcript. Prosecutors said Singer then sent the materials to Laura Janke, a former assistant women's soccer coach at University of Southern California and an alleged co-conspirator he used to help create falsified athletic profiles.  

"This young man will he a soccer player from Vancouver for UCLA," Singer wrote to Janke in an email. 

Janke's fabricated profile for Sui'sson described him as a top player for two private soccer clubs in Canada, according to prosecutors. It also included photos of a different individual playing soccer. 

Prosecutors said Singer forwarded the profile to former head USC women's soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin and Jorge Salcedo, UCLA's head men's soccer coach. Salcedo later passed the profile and the student's high school transcript to UCLA athletic administrators to process the recruitment, according to Sui's indictment.

Janke and Khosroshahin both pleaded guilty to charges in connection with the college admissions scandal and are cooperating with the government.Salcedo pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges in March.

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Prosecutors said in October 2018 – after Singer already had started cooperating with federal investigators — he instructed Sui to wire him  $100,000 to be “paid to the coach at UCLA” in exchange for a letter of intent from the UCLA soccer coach.

Sui later wired $100,000 to a bank account in Massachusetts in the name of Singer's sham nonprofit, The Key Worldwide Foundation, and an additional $300,000 to the organization after her son was formally admitted into UCLA as a recruited soccer player on Nov. 5, 2018. The recruit also was awarded a 25% scholarship by UCLA, according to prosecutors. 

"UCLA took immediate corrective action after this case was initially outlined in the Department of Justice’s March 2019 indictment," university spokesman Tod M. Tamberg said in an email.

"Although federal law and University of California privacy policy prevents UCLA from discussing the specific actions taken in this particular case, UCLA 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 DOJ."

More: College admissions scandal: Parents' sentences at stake as judge presses prosecution

The Justice Department announced the historic "Varsity Blues" college admissions scheme in March. It started with 50 defendants, but Sui is now the second additional parent to be charged. Prosecutors have alleged wealthy parents paid more than $25 million in bribes to Singer since 2011 to either tag their children as athletic recruits to get them into college or to have someone cheat on their SAT or ACT exams to artificially boost their scores.

Sui's indictment comes days after actress Felicity Huffman became the first parent to be sentenced in the sweeping admissions scandal. Huffman received 14 days of prison as well a $30,000 fine, supervised release for one year and 250 hours of community service for paying $15,000 to have someone correct answers on the SAT exam of her oldest daughter. 

Singer's network of clients extended overseas into China. 

Although Sui is the first Chinese national charged in the admission case, a mother from China, Yusi Zhao, admitted to paying Singer $6.5 million to facilitate her daughter's entry into Stanford University. Zhao, who has not been charged, said she was duped into thinking she was making a donation to the school.

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: UCLA mom charged with paying $400K to get son admitted as fake soccer recruit