A 48-year-old woman was arrested Monday night in Spain, becoming the 52nd defendant nabbed in the college admissions scam case that has ensnared celebrities, business executives, and former coaches at selective schools.
Xiaoning Sui, a Chinese national living in Canada, allegedly paid $400,000 to get her son admitted to the University of California, Los Angeles, US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office said.
Prosecutors will seek her extradition to Boston, where a steady parade of well-heeled defendants has already appeared to face charges that they paid money to get a special “side door” for their children into college.
Those entangled in the “Operation Varsity Blues” scanda have included Hollywood star Felicity Huffman, who got hit with a 14-day sentence last week for paying a $15,000 bribe to pad her daughter’s SAT score.
Federal prosecutors say Sui sought to get her son into UCLA as a bogus soccer recruit. Sui’s March indictment was kept under seal until Tuesday, records show. No attorney was listed for her in court records.
“According to the indictment, Sui agreed with William ‘Rick’ Singer to pay $400,000 to facilitate her son’s admission to UCLA as a purported soccer recruit,” Lelling’s office said. “It is alleged that during a phone call in August 2018, Singer explained that Sui’s son could be ‘guaranteed’ admission to UCLA, in exchange for $400,000.”
Between August and October 2018, the statement said, “Sui allegedly provided Singer with her son’s transcript and photographs of her son playing tennis. Co-conspirator Laura Janke then fabricated a soccer profile for Sui’s son, which described him as a top player for two private soccer clubs in Canada. On Oct. 24, 2018, Singer instructed Sui to wire Singer $100,000 which would be ‘paid to the coach at UCLA’ in exchange for a letter of intent from the UCLA soccer coach.”
Two days later, prosecutors said, “Sui allegedly wired $100,000 to a bank account in Massachusetts in the name of Singer’s sham charitable organization, the Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF). On Nov. 5, 2018, UCLA admitted Sui’s son as a recruited soccer player, and awarded him a 25 percent scholarship. In February 2018, Sui allegedly wired an additional $300,000 to the KWF account as final payment for her son’s fraudulent admission to UCLA.”
Janke and Singer have both pleaded guilty to charges related to the scam, which enraged the public and sparked heated debates about the often intractable class divide in higher education. Jorge Salcedo, the former UCLA coach who allegedly helped Sui’s son get into the school as a sham recruit, has also been charged criminally.
While Sui’s son didn’t play competitive soccer, he did play tennis. Sui’s indictment says a Florida tennis recruiter, identified only as Recruiter 1, was also in on the ruse to make the son a UCLA Bruin, not as a budding Sampras but as a fake soccer player.
“In or about early August 2018, Recruiter 1 spoke with Singer by telephone,” the filing says. “In the call, Singer provided Recruiter 1 with prices for how much it would cost to secure admission for Applicant 1 [Sui’s son] to various universities, including UCLA, through bribery.”
Then on Aug. 24, 2018, the indictment says, Singer had a phone conversation with Recruiter 1, Sui, and a Chinese translator.
“Singer explained to SUI, through the Chinese translator, that Singer himself would need to write Applicant’s 1 application in a ‘special way,’ and only then can it be ‘guaranteed that he can get in,’ to UCLA,” the document says. “In addition, SUI would need to set up an escrow account and put $400,000 into it, which would hold the money pending Applicant I’s acceptance to UCLA. Singer explained to SUI that Applicant 1 would not ‘know anything is happening.’ ”
There was a second call in October 2018.
“Singer explained in English that he needed SUI to wire $100,000 to Singer’s bank account, which would be ‘paid to the coach at UCLA’ in exchange for a letter of intent from the coach recruiting Applicant 1 onto his soccer team,” the indictment says. “Singer further explained that the $100,000 would be paid to ‘the UCLA men’s soccer coach directly.’ The translator translated what Singer said into Chinese, telling SUI: ‘Your son is admitted to this school through UCLA’s soccer team. That $100,000 is directly transferred to that soccer coach. So, although your son is a tennis player, because there is a place in soccer team, so it is the soccer team that takes your son. SUI responded, ‘OK.’ ”
Several months after Sui’s son was admitted in November 2018, she made the second, $300,000 payment, the indictment says.
Sui’s son wasn’t just accepted to UCLA; he also secured a 25 percent scholarship “as part of his recruitment,” the indictment says.
Also among the charged parents is Lori Loughlin, the actress whose scene-stealing performance as Aunt Becky on the sitcom “Full House” made her a pop culture icon. She and her husband are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to help their daughters gain admission to the USC as phony crew team recruits.