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Ex-football player in Canada charged with paying $200,000 to hike test scores for sons

One of David Sidoo’s sons was admitted to the University of California in Berkeley.
One of David Sidoo’s sons was admitted to the University of California in Berkeley. (Ben Margot/Associated Press/File)

A former Canadian Football League player will make his first appearance Friday afternoon in federal court in Boston, records show, in connection with a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal that exploded into the headlines this week.

David Sidoo, 59, of Vancouver allegedly made payments totaling $200,000 to have someone take the SAT in place of his two sons, who were later admitted to Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and the University of California, Berkeley, legal filings show.

Sidoo faces a charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Martin G. Weinberg, a prominent Boston defense attorney who’s representing Sidoo, said in an e-mail that his client “fully intends to plead not guilty and contest both the legal and factual basis for the charge.”

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Sidoo is among the dozens of wealthy parents, including top financiers and Hollywood celebrities, who are accused of paying bribes to William “Rick” Singer, the admitted ringleader of a sprawling con that funneled some $25 million to Singer-controlled entities over several years.

Sidoo in 2011 paid Singer $100,000 to have another conspirator, Mark Riddell, 36, take the SAT for his older son, according to an indictment. Singer cautioned Riddell not to obtain too high a score because Sidoo’s son had already taken the SAT once before and scored 1460 out of a possible 2400, filings show.

Riddell, posing as the older son, took the SAT in December 2011 and scored a 1670, according to authorities. The older son was admitted to Chapman College in January 2012.

Also in 2012, Sidoo agreed to pay Singer an unspecified amount to have Riddell secretly take a Canadian high school graduation exam in place of his older son, records show.

Later, Riddell took the SAT for Sidoo’s younger son, this time earning a score of 2280 out of 2400, according to the indictment. Sidoo allegedly coughed up another $100,000 for the trouble, and the son was accepted to UC Berkeley in March 2014, legal filings show.

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Riddell has agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud and money-laundering-related charges, according to court records.

In October 2018, Singer called Sidoo from Boston, and Sidoo “noted that his older son was applying to business school, adding, ‘I thought you were gonna call me and say I got a 2100 on my GMAT,’ ” a test widely used for business school admissions, the indictment said.

The GMAT is scored on a scale of 200 to 800.

According to the indictment, Singer responded, “They don’t have a 2100 for the GMAT. But I would do my best to get it for ya,” and Sidoo replied, “I know.”

Sidoo grew up in British Columbia, Canada, and played six seasons for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, according to his biography on the BC Sports Hall of Fame website.

“Now one of BC’s most successful business leaders and a generous philanthropist, Sidoo acknowledges football shaped his life in unimaginable ways,” the site says. “It’s why football and sport in general are often the place where he chooses to give something back.”

Sidoo is described on his personal website as “a prominent Vancouver-based businessman who is passionately involved in philanthropy, his family and the arts.”

The site continues, “In addition to overseeing an successful private investment banking and financial management firm, David is currently Executive Chairman and Director of East West Petroleum Corporation (EWP), an emerging, Canadian-based exploration and production company which is pursuing commercial development of unconventional and conventional petroleum resources globally.”

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The website also notes that Sidoo is fond of the adage, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”


Material from Bloomberg was used in this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.