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Four months jail for Florida man hired to write exams for David Sidoo’s sons

Court sentences tennis pro for role in scheme that helped former CFL player’s sons get into U.S. universities
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Part-time professional imposter Riddell of Palmetto, Fla. pleaded guilty three years ago to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The Florida tennis pro who was paid to write college entrance exams for the sons of Vancouver stock promoter David Sidoo was sentenced in Boston to four months in jail and two years probation on April 8.

U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton also ordered Mark Riddell, 39, to pay a $1,000 fine and forfeit $239,449, although the U.S. government had already collected almost $166,000.

Part-time professional imposter Riddell of Palmetto, Fla. pleaded guilty three years ago to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Between 2011 and 2019, Riddell used fake identification to secretly pose as students and write their college entrance exams. He also acted as a proctor who corrected answers after students took their exam.

“Riddell played a key role in the success of the test cheating aspect of [mastermind Rick] Singer’s scheme and took 27 exams for 24 students over eight years,” said the prosecutor’s partly redacted sentencing submission. “While he was earning $5,000 to $10,000 per exam, Riddell was gainfully employed as a college counsellor at an elite athletic boarding school earning $71,000 per year. He had a privileged upbringing and attended an Ivy League university before becoming a professional tennis player. He did not act out of desperation; he committed his offense because he could get away with it.”

During the hearing, Gorton asked, “How could you have stooped so low?”

In March 2020, David Sidoo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud. He admitted paying $200,000 in 2011 and 2012 to Singer, who then arranged for Riddell to use fake ID to pose as Dylan and Jordan Sidoo.

The scheme helped Dylan Sidoo enter Chapman University in California. He later transferred to the University of Southern California where he graduated from the film school. Jordan Sidoo used Riddell’s results to enter and graduate from the University of California, Berkeley.

Prosecutors alleged Riddell travelled from Tampa, Fla., to Vancouver and posed as Dylan Sidoo to write a scholastic aptitude test (SAT) on Dec. 3, 2011, at a venue that was not disclosed. Riddell also allegedly travelled to Vancouver again, to write a test on June 9, 2012, that is described in the indictment as a “Canadian high school graduation exam.” The indictment did not include the proper name for the test or the venue.

Provincial examinations in 2012 were written June 18-22 and 25-28, but June 9 was the designated date for students to write the standardized ACT test. Dylan Sidoo was a student at St. George’s boys school at the time. In a March 2019 statement, the school said, “There were no school or provincial exams written at St. George’s School by the student in question on or around the [2012] date named in the indictment.”

The allegations about Riddell’s trips to B.C. were not tested in court, because David Sidoo avoided trial by pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. If convicted, he could have faced up to 20 years in jail. Instead, after the plea deal, Sidoo spent three months in a jail south of Seattle in fall 2020.

Also in one of the indictments, David Sidoo allegedly asked Singer if Riddell could take either the Graduate Management Admission Test or Law School Admission Test on behalf of his oldest son, Dylan. But the plan went awry.

“Singer and Riddell researched the security measures in place for both exams. On or about April 28, 2015, Singer told Sidoo that their plan to have Riddell take the LSAT in place of Sidoo’s son was ‘[n]ot happening due to fingerprinting’ requirements on the exam,” the indictment said.

The indictment also said that in mid-December 2016, Riddell wired $520 through Western Union to China to buy fraudulent drivers’ licences so he could pose as Dylan Sidoo for the GMAT. Riddell ultimately decided not to take the exam, because the fake ID was “not of high quality.”

Singer pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

As a result of the scandal, former Canadian Football League player David Sidoo lost his Order of B.C. and his name was removed from the Thunderbird Stadium field and scoreboard at the University of B.C.