Crime

IMG director charged as part of college admissions scam. He was paid to take a test, feds say

An IMG Academy director implicated in a college admissions scam appears to be cooperating with federal investigators.

Court documents allege Mark Riddell, of Palmetto, was paid to take an exam in place of a student.

Riddell had been listed as the director of College Entrance Exam and Preparation for IMG Academy, according to the Miami Herald. IMG Academy removed Riddell’s profile from the website by 1:20 p.m. Tuesday. He started working at IMG in 2006.

In the affidavit in support of criminal complaint, an FBI special agent wrote a “(Cooperating Witness 2) was employed at relevant times as the director of college entrance exam preparation at a private college preparatory school and sports academy in Bradenton, Florida.”

That witness, which the Miami Herald reported appears to be Riddell, has been cooperating with the investigation since February and has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The Miami Herald reached out to IMG Academy for comment. The Bradenton Herald attempted to reach Riddell on Tuesday afternoon.

Riddell was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to the Department of Justice. Riddell himself graduated from IMG Academy and went on to play Division I NCAA tennis and attend Harvard University, the Miami Herald reported, citing the school’s website.

Mark Riddell.jpg
Mark Riddell is the director of college entrance exam preparation (SAT and ACT) at Bradenton’s IMG Academy, where he began working in 2006.

The investigation found students’ parents were encouraged by William Rick Singer, who was also charged as a part of the investigation, to seek extended time for their children on the entrance exams, by saying their child had learning disabilities and obtaining the documentation the ACT and College Board required, according to DOJ documents. The students granted the extended time could generally take the exam in an individualized setting over two days, rather than one.

The documents allege Riddell conspired with Singer to commit mail fraud between 2011 and February 2019. The DOJ said they bribed test administrators to allow Riddle to take the tests or replace answers.

Singer reportedly paid Riddell using the guise of his charitable organization.

Riddell was paid to take tests in place of students or replace students’ responses on exams, according to documents from the Department of Justice.

Highlighted in the DOJ documents was a 2018 incident where Riddell was to correct a student’s answers on an ACT exam after the student completed the test. But the student became sick and could not go to Houston, Texas, where the exam was to be taken and Singer had allegedly bribed test administrators. Instead, investigators said Riddell took the exam in the student’s place.

Riddell was given a sample of the student’s handwriting to imitate and allegedly flew from Tampa to Houston on July 13, 2018. He took the ACT exam in his hotel room the next day, according to DOJ documents.

He scored a 35 out of a possible 36.

Documents allege Singer sent a $5,000 check to the exam administrator and a $10,000 check to Riddell.

The student’s parents then sent $35,000. It was part of a $50,000 fee agreed upon by those involved.

A hearing is scheduled for April 12.

Before his profile page was taken down, the Miami Herald reported Riddell created the school’s test preparation program and is credited with assisting “thousands of students in gaining admission to top American universities such as Stanford, Duke, Columbia, Dartmouth, University of Chicago, and many other notable institutions.”

Several colleges were named in the investigation, including Yale University, Stanford University, and the University of Southern California.

Sports Illustrated reported several college coaches were indicted as well.

“The charges brought forth today are troubling and should be a concern for all of higher education. We are looking into these allegations to determine the extent to which NCAA rules may have been violated,” the NCAA in a statement on social media.

Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughin were also charged as part of the investigation, the DOJ announced.

The Miami Herald contributed to this story.

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