Federal prosecutors charged 51 people including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman with using bribes, bogus entrance-exam scores and fake athletic achievements to get their children admitted to college. Two Houston residents, Martin Fox and Lisa ‘Niki’ Williams were also charged.
The ringleader of the scheme was Rick Singer, of Newport Beach, California, who ran a college prep business. Mr Singer has pleaded guilty to the charges so it doesn’t look good for the other defendants. Most of the defendants and the colleges involved are based in California. The scheme ran from 2011 to February 2019.
Cheating on ACT test
Mr Singer allowed students to cheat on their SAT or ACT exams in exchange for bribes by arranging for a third party, generally Mark Riddell, 36, of Florida to take the exams in place of the actual students.
Niki Williams was a Teachers Assistant at an un-named high school in Houston. She was also an administrator for the ACT and SAT exams which were held in the same school.
In one example in the indictment, Singer got a donation of $50,000 from one parent and arranged for Riddell to correct the son’s answers after he took the ACT. Unfortunately, the son fell ill a couple of days before the test and was unable to take it. Riddell flew from Tampa to Houston, and took the test instead, sitting in a hotel room. Williams allegedly delivered the exam and picked it up afterwards. According to the indictment she was paid $5,000.
Fox is not just a Tennis Academy President
Williams was introduced to Singer by Martin Fox. In the indictment, Mr Fox is described, rather coyly as ‘the President of a private tennis academy and camp in Houston’. He may be that, but in practice he is a well-heeled sports money man/entrepreneur. His twitter feed (before it was made private) was full of pictures of Fox with famous sporting figures. In 2011, Sports Illustrated had described Fox as an “Adidas ‘Grass Roots Director of Houston’ (in that article they estimated that Fox had lost $249,000 in the Ponzi scheme run by Houston money manager, David Salinas).
Bribery involving UT Tennis Coach
In 2015 Fox introduced Singer to Michael Center, the head tennis coach at the University of Texas for the purpose of facilitating the admission of a student to UT as a purported athletic recruit. According to the indictment, Singer paid the coach and Fox $100,000 each. UT placed Center on administrative leave after the indictment.
Fox also allegedly received $100,000 for facilitating the admission of a student to the University of San Diego in a similar manner.
Fox associated with College Basketball corruption trial
Fox’s name turned up late last year in court proceedings concerning the college basketball corruption trial involving two Adidas officials and aspiring agent. The defense lawyers in that trial had argued that $40,000 of the money paid to Kansas basketball players, came, not from Adidas but from Martin Fox (who didn’t directly work for Adidas). No wrongdoing was alleged against Fox in that trial. The defendants were found guilty after a three-week trial.
Williams and Fox are facing racketeering charges. The Justice Department is also seeking forfeitures of $5,000 against Williams and $429,300 against Fox.