Chapman University turned over records for nine students to prosecutors investigating ties between the Orange County school and a Newport Beach consultant who has since admitted to orchestrating a national test-rigging and bribery scheme, Chapman’s president said Thursday.
The school received $400,000 from a foundation controlled by the consultant, William “Rick” Singer — $75,000 more than Singer had disclosed in public tax filings, president Daniele Struppa said. Singer has admitted to using his Key Worldwide Foundation to launder payments from parents and dole out bribes to coaches, exam proctors and a university administrator.
Chapman launched an investigation in March after federal prosecutors in Massachusetts charged 50 people, including Singer, in a wide-reaching conspiracy to slip the children of wealthy families into some of the country’s most selective universities with bribes and doctored entrance exams.
No Chapman employees have been charged or accused of wrongdoing.
But given Singer’s ties to the school — including his foundation’s donations and allegations that a child of one of his clients was admitted there with a fraudulent SAT score — Chapman hired a former federal prosecutor to investigate, Struppa said. School spokeswoman Jamie Ceman declined to identify the investigator.
The U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts, which began unraveling Singer’s scheme a year ago, subpoenaed documents in November related to nine students at Chapman, along with records of donations Singer made to the school, Struppa said. The university was ordered to keep the subpoena confidential until recently, he added.
Chapman’s investigation found that many families who had worked with Singer donated to Chapman, and that several of the gifts were made “in close proximity to an admissions decision,” according to a summary of the investigation’s findings released Thursday.
Singer ran a lawful college counseling business alongside the admissions and testing fraud, and far more families are believed to have hired him for legitimate purposes than criminal ones.
Chapman both admitted and denied applicants whose family had hired Singer, Struppa said, and the university is “still evaluating if any action is needed regarding current students.”
Ceman, the school spokeswoman, would not comment beyond the investigation summary laid out by Struppa, citing the ongoing investigation by Massachusetts prosecutors.
Singer’s foundation donated $300,000 to Chapman in 2017, and another $100,000 in 2018, according to the investigation’s summary. Singer was apprehended in September 2018 and began cooperating with investigators in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.
“A portion” of the money was directed to the school’s lacrosse endowment, Struppa said, and another portion went to the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, Chapman’s film school.
Struppa said being designated as an athletic recruit “carries little to no weight” in deciding whether to admit an applicant at Chapman.
In a scheme Singer referred to as “the side door” to college entry, prosecutors say, he bribed college coaches and administrators to designate the children of his clients as athletic recruits to secure their admission to such elite schools as Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and UCLA.
Prosecutors have not alleged that Chapman was a school breached by Singer’s “side door.” But one of his clients, Vancouver, Canada, businessman and former Canadian Football League player David Sidoo, was indicted in March and charged with paying tens of thousands of dollars to rig his two sons’ exams. One of the sons was admitted to Chapman.
His older son, Dylan Sidoo, attended Chapman briefly before transferring out in 2014. He was enrolled in Chapman’s film school, according to a blog post Chapman published in 2013.
Prosecutors say an accomplice of Singer’s, a Harvard graduate named Mark Riddell, took the SAT for Dylan Sidoo, and that the score he submitted to Chapman was fraudulent.
Dylan Sidoo has not been charged with a crime. His father has pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.