Woman accused of paying $400,000 bribe to get her son into UCLA

/ CBS/AP

Felicity Huffman gets 14 days in prison

A woman accused of paying $400,000 to get her son into the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as a fake soccer recruit has become the 52nd person charged in a sweeping college admissions bribery scheme, according to an indictment unsealed Tuesday.

Xiaoning Sui, 48, of Surrey, British Columbia, was charged with a single count of conspiracy and fraud in the indictment unsealed in Boston's federal court. Authorities said she was arrested in Spain on Monday night and was being held there while authorities seek to extradite her to the U.S.

Sui is the first person to be charged since June, when parent Jeffrey Bizzack pleaded guilty to paying $250,000 to get his son into the University of Southern California (USC) as a fake athlete. Dozens of others were charged in March when authorities announced the investigation.

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Prosecutors said Sui paid $400,000 to a sham charity operated by admissions consultant William "Rick" Singer as part of a scheme to have her son admitted to UCLA as a fake soccer recruit. Sui is accused of providing Singer her son's transcript and photos of him playing tennis.

People talk on the phone at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) campus on June 1, 2016. Getty

Singer worked with Laura Janke, a former assistant soccer coach at USC, to fabricate an athletic profile depicting Sui's son as a top player on two private soccer clubs in Canada, prosecutors said. Both Singer and Janke have pleaded guilty.

Sui's son was admitted to UCLA as a soccer player in November 2018, authorities say and was awarded a 25% scholarship. It is unclear whether her son still attends the school. A spokesman for UCLA did not immediately comment.

Prosecutors did not explain why Sui was not part of the original group of parents charged in March. It was not immediately clear whether she has an attorney to speak for her.

ULCA tuition for out-of-state students averaged $61,000 per year, according to figures from the 2016-2017 school year. The $400,000 bribe would cover at least six years at the university.

The scandal has ensnared dozens of wealthy parents accused of paying bribes to rig their children's SAT and ACT scores or get them admitted as recruited athletes to elite schools across the nation, including Yale, Stanford and Georgetown universities.

College admissions scam exposes racial disparities

Of the 51 people previously charged, 23 have pleaded guilty, including "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman, who paid $15,000 to rig her daughter's SAT score. She was sentenced last week to 14 days in prison, 250 hours of community service and a $30,000 fine.

Before the sentencing September 14, Huffman tearfully apologized, saying she was "deeply sorry" for her actions. She also apologized directly to her daughter, Sophia.

"I can only say I'm so sorry, Sofia. I was frightened and stupid. I now see all the things I knew was wrong. I realize now that love and truth must go hand in hand. I take full responsibility for my actions," she said.

Prosecutors had sought a one-year sentence for Huffman. Federal prosecutor Eric Rosen said, "with all due respect to the defendant, welcome to parenthood."

"That's what every parent goes through," Rosen said. "What parenthood does not do, it does not make you a felon. It does make you cheat. We all want the best for our children, but most parents have the moral compass not to step over the line."

Another 28 defendants are contesting the charges against them, including "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying to get their two daughters into USC as fake athletes on the crew team.

First published on September 17, 2019 / 3:31 PM

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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