Lithium executive latest to face charges in sprawling U.S. college admissions scandal

BOSTON (Reuters) - The temporarily ousted chief executive of Advantage Lithium Corp on Friday is set to become the latest wealthy person to face criminal charges of participating in the largest college-admissions fraud scheme in U.S. history.

David Sidoo, who was temporarily replaced as CEO by the company's board of directors on Thursday, is due to appear in Boston federal court to be charged with paying $200,000 to the scam's accused mastermind, William "Rick" Singer, to arrange for people to take the SAT admissions test for his two sons.

Some 50 people including prominent executives, Hollywood actors and college coaches have been charged for roles in the scheme, in which prosecutors say earned Singer some $25 million over eight years by bribing coaches and arranging for phony test-takers to secure clients' children spots at elite universities including Yale, Georgetown and Stanford.

Singer on Tuesday pleaded guilty to masterminding the scheme, which highlighted the lengths that wealthy and powerful Americans would go to cheat the high-stakes and high-pressure college admissions system.

One of the schools involved, the University of Southern California, has already rescinded admissions offers to six students involved in the scheme and said it will review what actions to take against students already admitted who took part.

Sidoo is one of a series of prominent executives charged in the scheme. Others include Douglas Hodge, former executive of investment firm PIMCO; Manuel Henriquez, who resigned as CEO of specialty finance company Hercules Capital Inc; Gordon Caplan, who has been placed on leave from his post as co-chairman of the global law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher; and TPG Capital private equity partner William McGlashan Jr., who was fired by the firm on Thursday.

Advantage Lithium is in the process of developing a potential Argentine lithium mine. Lithium is a key ingredient in batteries for electric cars.

Hollywood actress Lori Loughlin was dropped by the company that owns the Hallmark cable channel and LVMH's Sephora beauty chain ended a sponsorship deal with her daughter, Olivia, as a result of the charge. Loughlin's husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, has also been charged.

"Desperate Housewives" actor Felicity Huffman was also charged in the scheme.

Both mastermind Singer and the parents alleged to have paid into the scheme could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The original tip that led to uncovering the college scandal stemmed from an unrelated securities fraud probe into Morrie Tobin, a Los Angeles resident who prosecutors said engaged in "pump-and-dump" stock market schemes, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Tobin, who pleaded guilty on Feb. 27 to conspiracy and securities fraud charges, told authorities a Yale University women’s soccer coach had sought a bribe in exchange for helping his daughter get into the Ivy League school, the person said.

That now-former coach was Rudy Meredith, who agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud charges.

(Reporting by Ross Kerber and Nate Raymond, writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

03/15/2019 9:52

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