UC Berkeley student, parent implicated in college admissions scandal

UC Berkeley student, parent implicated in college admissions scandal

Photo Credits: K. OLIVER [CC BY 2.0] / FLICKR

David Sidoo accused of paying $100,000 for someone to fraudulently take son’s SAT

David Sidoo, a UC Berkeley parent, has been accused of bribing Mark Riddell, a resident of Palmetto, Florida, to take his son Jordan Sidoo’s Canadian high school exams and his SAT for him. The news is part of the nationwide college admissions scandal that broke earlier this month. Sidoo has been charged with wire fraud and mail fraud.

David Sidoo is a businessman from Vancouver and formerly played for the Canadian Football League (CFL). Sidoo also stands accused of participating in a similar fraudulent scheme for his older son, Dylan, so that he would be accepted into Chapman University. Dylan later transferred to USC.

The large-scale scandal was orchestrated by Newport Beach, Calif. resident William “Rick” Singer, whose fraudulent organization, The Key, functioned as a cover for the payments parents were making to him, so that their children would be accepted into prestigious U.S. universities.

According to the LA Times, Sidoo plead not guilty last week in federal court in Boston. If Sidoo is convicted, he could face as many as 20 years in prison.

UC Berkeley is the second UC to be named in the scandal; last week, the UCLA men’s soccer Head Coach Jorge Salcedo was indicted on charges of racketeering and conspiracy in relation to the bribery scheme.

According to redacted court documents filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ), Sidoo allegedly paid The Key $100,000 to arrange for someone to take Jordan Sidoo’s SAT in the fall of 2012. On around Oct. 31, 2012, Sidoo emailed Mark Riddell, who participated in Singer’s scheme, with information containing Jordan’s address and personal details so that Riddell could pose as his son and take the SAT for him.

On Dec. 1, 2012, Riddell successfully posed as Jordan Sidoo and obtained a 2280 out of 2400 on the SAT at an Orange County high school. The trip was allegedly financed by David Sidoo, who had paid for Riddell to fly from Tampa to Los Angeles to complete his son’s SAT. Riddell received $5,000 each for the three tests that he had taken on behalf of Sidoo’s children.

Riddell, a Harvard graduate, has since agreed to plead guilty to taking college board exams for people at a going rate of $10,000 per test, according to prosecutors. He will be charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering.

In 2013 and 2014, Jordan Sidoo allegedly used that fraudulent score in applications sent to Georgetown, Yale and UC Berkeley. Jordan Sidoo was accepted into UC Berkeley in March 2014 and subsequently enrolled.

Jordan was apparently on the rowing team at UC Berkeley in the 2014-2015 season as a coxswain. A UC Berkeley spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that Jordan had been “an active member” of the team.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Jordan Sidoo graduated from UC Berkeley in 2018 and is currently a candidate for an M.B.A. in Sports Management at Southern New Hampshire University. The profile also lists him as having been a member of the “varsity rowing team” at UC Berkeley from 2014-2016. Additionally, Jordan Sidoo is the founder of a Vancouver-based startup called Disappears.

“Integrity in our admissions process is critically important,” said Diana Harvey, the associate vice chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs at UC Berkeley, via email. “Students who do not adhere to that value may have their admissions offer revoked, enrolled students may be dismissed, and diplomas conferred may be revoked. […] Our knowledge regarding the recently released indictment and any ties to UC Berkeley is based on information included in that indictment, which also indicates that colleges and universities named were victims of the crimes committed.”

University of California President Janet Napolitano also responded to these events, saying in a statement that the allegations “are a disservice to the hardworking and accomplished students and alumni who have earned their place at the university.”

“I was deeply troubled and disappointed to learn of the charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against several dozen individuals accused of cheating and accepting bribes to gain students’ unlawful admission to top universities, including the University of California,” Napolitano said. “Illegal, inappropriate and unethical means to gain admission, at the expense of deserving applicants, is antithetical to every aspect of our mission and values. As a public institution — one of the most highly regarded in the world — we are dedicated to ensuring a level playing field for every applicant.”

The statement outlined steps that Napolitano, in her role as president, will be taking to investigate the allegations.

According to Napolitano, the UC will investigate those implicated in the scandal, review admissions policies and contact The College Board and the ACT to see what steps they are taking to “ensure the integrity of students’ scores.” Other actions will include “[requesting] the latest available information from the U.S. Attorney offices in California to guide our future proactive action” and “collaborating with local and federal authorities in this matter to unearth the full breadth and scope of this problem.”

“It is unfortunate that the unethical behavior of a few individuals colors UC’s unwavering commitment to fairness and equity. The university will seize this moment as a valuable opportunity to improve its policies and practices, while continuing to be transparent, accountable and expeditious, as this is our fundamental obligation to our students – prospective, current and alumni – as well as the public. We will uncover the full truth and make things right,” Napolitano said.

Written by: Rebecca Bihn-Wallace — campus@theaggie.org