The former president of a private tennis academy in Texas on Friday admitted to his role in the college admissions cheating scandal that outraged the public, ensnared the rich and famous, and sparked heated debates about class privilege in higher education.
Martin Fox, 62, of Houston pleaded guilty in US District Court in Boston to a sole count of racketeering conspiracy, US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office said in a statement.
Fox’s lawyers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fox is one of 52 defendants entangled in the breathtaking scheme, in which wealthy parents cut hefty checks to admitted ringleader William “Rick” Singer to have their children falsely designated as sports recruits at selective schools, or to pad their kids’ SAT and ACT scores. Singer, who cooperated with law enforcement and recorded conversations with parents and others involved, called it a “side door” into the colleges.
In an October statement, US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office laid out Fox’s alleged wrongdoing.
Fox introduced Singer in 2015 to Michael Center, a tennis coach at the University of Texas, “who facilitated the admission of a student to U-Texas as a purported athletic recruit in exchange for a bribe. In return for assisting with the bribe transaction, Singer paid Fox $100,000,” the statement said.
That wasn’t the last time for Fox, according to the government.
Fox arranged similar bribes on two occasions with a varsity sports coach at the University of San Diego, according to the statement.
“Specifically, in exchange for a bribe paid through Fox, the USD coach designated the son of one of Singer’s clients, who did not play the sport, as an athletic recruit for the team, thereby facilitating his admission to USD. Singer paid Fox $100,000 for arranging the bribe. In 2017, in exchange for the promise of another bribe, the varsity coach designated another student as a recruit to manage the coach’s team, thereby facilitating her admission to USD.”
Prosecutors said Singer paid the varsity coach $10,000 even though the student ultimately decided not to attend the University of San Diego.
Fox was involved in the testing scams, as well, according to the statement from the US attorney’s office.
“Between 2015 and 2018, Fox also agreed with Singer and others to facilitate cheating on the ACT and SAT college entrance exams,” Lelling’s office said Friday. “Fox funneled bribe payments from Singer to Niki Williams, a test administrator for the ACT and SAT, for four of Singer’s clients. In exchange, Williams allowed someone else to purportedly proctor the exams, despite knowing that this person was not proctoring the exam consistent with ACT and SAT requirements. Singer typically paid Fox $25,000 per exam, a portion of which Fox funneled to Williams.”
Williams has also been charged in connection with the scheme. Her case is pending.
A number of defendants have pleaded guilty in connection with the scam, including Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman, who served less than two weeks in prison for paying a $15,000 bribe to boost her daughter’s SAT score.