Vancouver businessman sentenced in U.S. college admissions scandal
VANCOUVER -- A prominent Vancouver businessman has now been sentenced for his role in the U.S. college admissions scandal.
David Sidoo will serve a 90-day prison term, followed by one year of supervised release, and pay a fine of $250,000. The sentence was proposed as part of a plea agreement, and has now been accepted by a federal court judge in Boston.
The millionaire philanthropist and former CFL player appeared by video as part of a Zoom call for the sentencing, wearing a checkered suit jacket and tie. Lawyers for Sidoo and the U.S. government also appeared by video.
Sidoo addressed the court before being sentenced, reading from a written statement.
"I'm very sorry," Sidoo said. "The last several months have been the hardest of my entire life."
Sidoo became emotional when referring to his wife and children in the statement.
“To my wife and boys, all I ever wanted was your love, respect and to be a good role model, and I know I have made a terrible mistake that has deeply affected our family,” Sidoo said. He told the young men and women who looked up to him that they deserved better.
"I make no excuses," Sidoo said. "I broke the law."
On March 13, Sidoo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Prosecutors said Sidoo paid US$200,000 to have someone take a college entrance exam in the place of his two sons.
Prosecutor Justin O’Connell told the court Sidoo was an "active and repeat participant in the fraudulent scheme."
"During this time, while he outwardly extolled virtue, being awarded honours such as the Order of British Columbia, he internally, when no one else was looking, used his good fortune to steal two admissions spots belonging to more capable and deserving students," O’Connell said.
O’Connell said Sidoo paid William "Rick" Singer, the head of a college admissions prep company who has since pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme, $100,000 in both 2011 and 2012. A man described in court as Singer’s associate, Mark Riddell, who has also since pleaded guilty, took exams in the place of Sidoo’s sons.
O’Connell said Sidoo also approved the use of a false essay for his younger son’s college applications, which included a made-up story about his son being held up at gunpoint in Los Angeles by a gang member, only to be rescued by a rival gangster named "Nugget."
O’Connell also told the court there were interactions between Sidoo and Singer in 2015, and as recently as 2018.
Defence lawyer Martin Weinberg said those later interactions were initiated by Singer, who tried to get Sidoo to re-hire him, but said Sidoo did not repeat his previous "errors" and did not accept Singer’s offers.
While sentencing Sidoo, United States District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said he was impressed by his “obvious remorse”, and added Sidoo was evidently an intelligent, hardworking person and a pillar of his community.
"And yet you have committed a crime that displays an unbelievable lack of integrity, morality, and common sense," Judge Gorton said. "You have let your selfish desire, your pride, and your enormous wealth overcome all of what you apparently want to stand for by your works of charity."
Sidoo's Order of B.C. was revoked in June. His name has also been removed from a field at the University of British Columbia, his former university.
Sidoo was among dozens of people charged in the scheme, including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
In sentencing documents submitted by the defence, they note Sidoo will likely be inadmissible to the United States as a result of the felony conviction.
They also include a number of letters of support for Sidoo, including from former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal, who wrote Sidoo's guilty pleas are "an indication of genuine remorse and contrition," and added Sidoo has suffered both physically and emotionally.
Reached by CTV News on Wednesday, Oppal did not want to comment on camera, but said he stands by the letter.
Other support letters were submitted from former CFL player Warren Moon, former MP Herb Dhaliwal, former RCMP officer and B.C. cabinet minister Amrik Virk, and Hyacks football coach and TSN broadcaster Farhan Lalji.
Sidoo will have to surrender himself on September 23rd to begin his sentence at a U.S. federal prison.