Chinese parent in U.S. college admissions scandal fined $250,000

BOSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge ordered a Chinese woman who lives in Canada to pay a $250,000 fine after she admitted to paying $400,000 to secure her son’s admission to the University of California, Los Angeles, through bribery as a purported soccer recruit.

FILE PHOTO: Xiaoning Sui leaves the federal courthouse after entering a plea in connection with a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., February 21, 2020. REUTERS/Amanda Sabga/File Photo

Xiaoning Sui, 48, appeared before a federal judge in Boston via a Zoom videoconference, in the second sentencing to take place remotely in the U.S. college admissions scandal because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sui pleaded guilty in February to federal programs bribery under a plea agreement that would spare her from further time in prison after she spent five months in jail in Spain, where she was arrested in September while traveling in Europe.

Prosecutors said the five months was comparable to the sentences imposed on other parents charged in the scandal. Sui’s lawyer, Martin Weinberg, argued his client was “deeply regretful” and had been punished enough.

But while U.S. District Judge Douglas Woodlock agreed in sentencing her to time served that Sui had spent enough time in prison, he said she deserved the maximum fine possible.

“It’s a money crime,” he said. “And it seems to me that it ought to be paid for in money, too.”

Sui is among 53 people charged with participating in a scheme in which wealthy parents conspired with a California college admissions consultant to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure the admission of their children to top schools.

William “Rick” Singer, the consultant, pleaded guilty last year and admitted he facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and bribed university sports coaches to secure the admission of his clients’ children as fake athletic recruits.

The 36 parents charged since March 2019 include “Full House” star Lori Loughlin, who is fighting the charges.

Prosecutors said that in August 2018, Singer told Sui on a call recorded through a wiretap that it would cost $400,000 to secure her son’s admission to U.S. universities including UCLA.

To obtain his admission, Singer turned to Jorge Salcedo, a UCLA soccer coach, who had already accepted $100,000 to facilitate the admission of the daughter of another of Singer’s clients to the school as a soccer recruit, prosecutors said.

After Singer began cooperating with investigators, he called Sui and told her he planned to use $100,000 of the $400,000 to pay the coach, and she wired him the money, prosecutors said.

Salcedo in April agreed to plead guilty.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Leslie Adler