By Matthew Ormseth
Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — A Chinese woman was arrested in Spain and charged with paying the mastermind of the college admissions scandal $400,000 to ensure her son was admitted to the University of California, Los Angeles, as a phony soccer player, federal authorities in Boston said Tuesday.
Xiaoning Sui — a Chinese national and resident of British Columbia — was arrested by Spanish authorities Monday night, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Massachusetts, which is seeking Sui's extradition. Sui, the 35th parent to be charged in the college admissions scandal, has been indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and honest services mail fraud.
To guarantee her son a spot at UCLA, prosecutors say Sui turned to William "Rick" Singer, the Newport Beach college admissions consultant who earlier this year admitted to overseeing a sprawling, decadelong scheme that defrauded some of the country's most selective universities with rigged college entrance exams, fake recruiting profiles and six-figure bribes to college coaches and administrators.
Sui, 48, paid Singer $400,000 to have her son admitted to UCLA as a recruited soccer player, despite that the boy had not played the sport competitively, according to an indictment returned by a grand jury in March. The indictment was sealed until Sui's arrest. The Los Angeles Times reported Sui's alleged deal with Singer last month.
It wasn't clear Tuesday whether Sui had retained a lawyer.
The indictment lays out Sui's alleged deal with Singer, beginning in August 2018, when Singer discussed with a college tennis recruiter from Sarasota, Florida, how much it would cost Sui to guarantee her son's admission to several universities "through bribery."
The recruiter, described as owning a business that matches high school tennis players with college coaches, isn't named in the indictment, but several people familiar with the case identified him as Scott Treibly.
Treibly, a former college tennis coach and former administrator at IMG Academy, didn't respond to requests for comment. He hasn't been charged in the case. Singer has pleaded guilty to four felonies and is awaiting sentencing.
Singer, Treibly, Sui and a Chinese translator had a conference call in August 2018, the indictment says, in which Singer told Sui he would need to write her son's application "in a special way" to guarantee his admission to UCLA. Federal agents had by then been recording Singer's phone calls for months.
Singer told Sui to place $400,000 in an escrow account, which would hold the money until her son was admitted to UCLA, according to the indictment. He told Sui her son wouldn't "know anything is happening," the indictment says.
Two weeks later, Sui sent pictures of her son playing tennis to Treibly, who forwarded them to Singer, the indictment says. Singer then sent them to Laura Janke, a former University of Southern California assistant soccer coach, telling her, "This young man will be a soccer player from Vancouver for UCLA."
Janke has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering, and admitted crafting scores of bogus recruiting profiles for the children of Singer's clients.
Janke created one such profile for Sui's son, the indictment says, complete with pictures of a different person playing soccer and fake achievements that described the boy as "a top player for two private soccer clubs in Canada."
Singer sent the recruiting profile and transcripts to Jorge Salcedo, UCLA's head men's soccer coach at the time, prosecutors allege. Salcedo forwarded the transcripts to "UCLA athletics administrators in order to process the recruitment of (Sui's son) as a UCLA soccer player," the indictment says.
"The UCLA admissions office typically allocates a number of admissions slots to each head coach to recruit highly qualified athletes," prosecutors wrote in the indictment. "Being on a UCLA head coach's list of recruited athletes significantly increases an applicant's chance of being admitted."
Salcedo was indicted in March, charged with facilitating a similar deal in 2016. Prosecutors allege Singer paid him $100,000 to misrepresent the daughter of a wealthy San Francisco Bay Area couple, Bruce and Davina Isackson, as a soccer recruit. The couple pleaded guilty earlier this year and admitted their daughter didn't play soccer.
Salcedo has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering. His attorney didn't respond to a request for comment.
In another conference call with Treibly, Sui and a translator, Singer told Sui to wire him $100,000, which he explained in English would be paid to "the UCLA men's soccer coach directly," the indictment says.
The translator told Sui, according to the indictment: "Your son is admitted to this school through UCLA's soccer team. That $100,000 is directly transferred to that soccer coach. So, although your son is a tennis player, because there is a place in (the) soccer team, so it is the soccer team that takes your son."
"OK," Sui said, according to the indictment.
Singer had by then been apprehended and was cooperating with federal authorities.
He mailed a $100,000 check to Salcedo and a $25,000 check to Ali Khosroshahin, a former USC women's soccer coach who helped arrange the deals with Salcedo, prosecutors say. Khosroshahin pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit racketeering.
UCLA approved Sui's son for admission as a recruited soccer player with a 25% athletic scholarship, the indictment says. He signed a letter of intent to play soccer at UCLA in November 2018. His mother wired Singer $300,000 in February, according to the indictment.
Tod Tamberg, a spokesman for UCLA, said in a statement the school took "immediate corrective action" after Salcedo and 49 others were charged in connection with Singer's scheme in March. Tamberg said he was prevented by law and school policy from discussing the specifics of Sui's case, but added that UCLA "can revoke the admission and athletics scholarship offer of any admitted student or dismiss any enrolled student who is found to have misrepresented information on their application."
UCLA isn't aware of any other "currently enrolled student-athletes" being investigated by federal prosecutors, Tamberg said.
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