Crime

IMG Academy suspends director charged in college admissions and bribery investigation

Coaches, celebrities indicted in college admissions bribery case

Court documents released Tuesday show dozens of celebrities and coaches have been charged with participating in a college admissions scam to get their children into prestigious schools.
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Court documents released Tuesday show dozens of celebrities and coaches have been charged with participating in a college admissions scam to get their children into prestigious schools.

IMG Academy announced late Tuesday it had suspended a director charged in a Department of Justice investigation into college admissions scams after investigators said he was paid to take and correct entrance exams for students, including the daughter of a celebrity actress.

“Today we were made aware of the charges against Mark Riddell. Riddell has been suspended indefinitely as we investigate this matter,” a statement from IMG Academy communications department read.

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

The Miami Herald reported a cooperating witness in the investigation, which appears to be Riddell, has been working with investigators since February in addition to agreeing to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Court documents allege Riddell was paid by William Rick Singer, who was also charged as a part of the investigation, to take an exam in place of a student in 2018. The student was scheduled to travel to Houston, Texas to take the exam, which Riddell was to then secretly correct. But the student became ill and could not travel, so Singer and Riddell allegedly arranged for Riddell to take the exam in the student’s place.

Riddell scored a 35 out of a possible 36 on the exam and was paid $10,000, according to court documents. The exam was then mailed to the ACT, Inc. Singer reportedly paid Riddell using the guise of his charitable organization.

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.

A $5,000 check was also sent to the exam administrator, according to the DOJ documents.

The student’s parents paid $35,000 as part of a $50,000 fee agreed upon by those involved.

Riddell may have taken or corrected ACT and SAT exams for students from 14 families, including actress Felicity Huffman’s daughter, according to the Miami Herald.

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In another incident, Riddell fed answers to two students, and was “gloating” they got away with it, the Miami Herald reported.

The documents allege Riddell conspired with Singer to commit mail fraud between 2011 and February 2019.

Riddell, Huffman, Lori Laughlin and several college coaches were among a total of 50 people charged in the investigation.

The investigation resulted in what federal officials called “the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department,” the Miami Herald reported. Parents were accused of paying an estimated $25 million in bribes to get their children into universities.

The Miami Herald contributed to this report.

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