00:51 - Source: CNN
FBI: Parents paid up to $6.5M for guaranteed admission
CNN —  

Mark Riddell and Rudy Meredith, two of the main cooperating witnesses in the college admissions scandal, have signed plea agreements with prosecutors in exchange for lesser sentences, according to court documents.

Riddell and Meredith represent the two prongs at the heart of the scheme: cheating on standardized tests and bribing college coaches to falsely classify an applicant as a recruited athlete, clearing a path to admission.

Meredith, the former women’s soccer coach at Yale University, admitted to accepting bribes in exchange for designating prospective students as recruits on the soccer team, according to the plea agreement.

Riddell, the former director of college entrance exam preparation at IMG Academy, a private college prep school in Florida, admitted he took tests in place of students, provided answers for their tests and corrected answers after the students completed their exams, the plea agreement says. IMG has suspended him indefinitely.

Both were part of the sprawling college admissions scandal that prosecutors revealed two weeks ago that charged 50 people, including 33 wealthy parents, of carrying out a scheme to get students fraudulently into elite universities.

The mastermind of the scheme, Rick Singer, is also cooperating with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty March 12 in federal court to racketeering, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.

Meredith was the first of the three to begin cooperating after he was caught in an FBI sting soliciting a bribe from a parent in exchange for helping get the parent’s daughter admitted to Yale as an athlete, according to court documents.

According to documents, the parents of an unnamed applicant paid Singer $1.2 million to facilitate her admission to Yale. Meredith was paid $400,000 in exchange for naming the student as a recruited soccer player, the documents state. Yale announced Monday it was rescinding the student’s admission in the wake of the scandal.

What the plea deals say

In exchange for Meredith’s guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and one count honest services wire fraud, the government is recommending he receive a prison sentence at the low end of the sentencing range and 36 months of supervised release, according to the plea agreement.

The government is also asking for $866,000 in forfeitures, made up of lump sums of $308,225.61 and $557,774.39, which equal the amount Meredith obtained as a result of his crimes.

He had been facing up to 20 years in prison. He agreed to testify if necessary.

Separately, Meredith signed a cooperation agreement that had been under seal that does not supersede the plea agreement and details the “substantial assistance” he has provided US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.

Meredith signed a proffer agreement May 2, 2018, and has been cooperating since then. His attorney did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

In exchange for Riddell’s guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, the government is recommending a prison sentence at the low end of the incarceration range, the plea agreement says.

The government is also recommending a fine at the low end of the sentencing guidelines, 36 months of supervised release, and a $239,449.42 fine, which is approximately the amount Riddell earned from his crimes.

Riddell typically was paid about $10,000 per test, according to court documents.

He had been facing 20 years in prison.

Riddell’s attorney had no comment on the plea agreement, which was dated February 18.