An expert test-taker who admitted posing as wealthy high school students to take their ACT and SAT exams pleaded guilty Friday in connection with a college admissions scheme that has also ensnared dozens of parents - including Hollywood celebrities and corporate executives. Mark Riddell, 36, faces charges stemming from his role in the scheme that prosecutors said allowed wealthy parents including the actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin to use cheating and bribes to help their children secure spots at universities. The crimes he acknowledged committing - conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud; and conspiracy to commit money laundering - carry sentences of up to 20 years in prison each and substantial fines.
Riddell, a director of college entrance exam prep at IMG Academy and a former Harvard tennis player, didn't have inside information about the answers - he was just a "really smart guy", prosecutors said.
Riddell was charged with almost 50 other people, including celebrities and wealthy parents who allegedly paid bribes to get their children into elite US colleges.
The 36-year-old, wearing a dark suit and glasses, looked straight ahead and showed no emotion as assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen explained that prosecutors will seek a sentence at the low end of the guidelines, which call for 33 to 41 months in prison.
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Authorities say Riddell took entrance exams in the place of students or corrected their answers.
He has been cooperating with authorities since February in the hopes of getting a lesser sentence.
Mr. Riddell is among 50 people who prosecutors say participated in schemes to cheat on entrance exams and pay $25-million in bribes over eight years, before a wave of arrests in last month's "Operation Varsity Blues".
Mark Riddell departs federal court Friday, April 12, 2019, in Boston, after pleading guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. Riddell allegedly received about $10,000 for each college entrance exam he took. Before taking the test, the document says, Riddell obtained a handwriting sample from the student so that he could imitate it when filling out the exam. Many children were unaware their parents arranged for the cheating, prosecutors said.
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Prosecutors say Riddell also flew to Los Angeles in 2017 to rig the SAT score for Huffman's older daughter by secretly changing her answers.
In exchange, Singer's clients paid him $15,000 and $75,000 per test by making donations to his charity, according to prosecutors.
Among the children whose tests Riddell helped along was Felicity Huffman's eldest daughter.
He said in a statement last month that he is "profoundly sorry" and takes full responsibility for his actions.
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