Mark Riddell, a standardized testing expert, was paid to do well on the SAT and ACT instead of students, or correct students’ answers before they were handed in, prosecutors said.
Riddell, one of many people caught up in the broader scheme in 2019, pleaded guilty that year to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Authorities arrested and charged Riddell, dozens of parents, college coaches and administrators in the sprawling 2019 investigation known as “Operation Varsity Blues.” And a jury deliberated Friday in federal court in Boston in the case of former USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic, who was charged with fraud and conspiracy in the scam.
Riddell agreed to a plea deal in 2019 that calls for incarceration at the lower end of the sentencing guidelines for the charges. Federal prosecutors suggested a sentence of 33 to 41 months, a law enforcement source told CNN that year. He had faced up to 20 years in prison.
In addition, prosecutors want Riddell to serve 36 months of supervised release and pay a fine of $239,449.42, which is roughly what he earned from his crimes, according to his plea agreement.
Prosecutors have said Riddell was associated with William “Rick” Singer, who they said committed two general scams: first, cheating on standardized tests for students whose parents paid; and second, using Singer’s connections to college athletic trainers and using bribes to get the children of paying parents into school with fake athletic credentials.
Riddell was a key player in the evidence scam, prosecutors said.
For years beginning in 2011, Singer, the owner of a college prep business, bribed test administrators to allow Riddell to take tests in place of students or correct students’ answers, prosecutors said. . Singer funneled money from a bogus charity, to which his clients donated, to test administrators at a Los Angeles private school and a public high school in Houston, authorities said.
Riddell was paid $10,000 per test, prosecutors said.
“He was a really smart guy,” Andrew Lelling, US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said at a news conference in March 2019. “He didn’t have any secondary information about the correct answers. perfect in the exam or to calibrate the score”.
Singer, who helped in the investigation, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges and is awaiting sentencing.
Most of the people charged in the ‘Operation Varsity Blues’ investigation have pleaded guilty
The vast majority of defendants in the ‘Operation Varsity Blues’ case have pleaded guilty and served their sentences, usually measured in weeks or months.
Among the most high-profile parents charged in the test portion of the scheme was actress Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud for paying Singer $15,000 to improve scores. trial of his eldest daughter. Huffman spent 11 days in jail in 2019.
Another actress, Lori Loughlin, spent two months in prison and her husband Mossimo Giannulli spent five months in prison for paying $500,000 to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as conscripted bogus athletes.
Vavic, the former water polo coach whose case is now before a jury, was accused of designating certain USC applicants as water polo recruits, thus facilitating their admission to the university, by relying on bogus sports resumes in exchange for bribes. He was fired in March 2019 after his allegations of his involvement in the scam became public.
CNN’s Mark Morales, Ray Sanchez and Eric Levenson contributed to this report.