College admissions scandal: Chinese family 'paid $6.5 million for spot at Stanford University’

Yusi Zhao admitted to Stanford after parents paid fixer William Singer seven-figure sum, sources say 

Kate Taylor,Jennifer Medina
Thursday 02 May 2019 12:27 BST
Stanford University rescinded Yusi Zhao’s admission in April, and she is no longer a student there
Stanford University rescinded Yusi Zhao’s admission in April, and she is no longer a student there (AP)

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The family of a Chinese student admitted to Stanford University paid $6.5m to the man at the heart of the college admissions scandal, according to reports.

Yusi Zhao, also known as Molly, was admitted to Stanford in 2017 after her parents paid Newport Beach college consultant William Singer the seven-figure sum, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Neither Ms Zhao nor her parents, who live in Beijing, have been charged, and it is unclear whether they are currently being investigated. Stanford University rescinded Ms Zhao’s admission in April, and she is no longer a student there.

The person with knowledge of the inquiry said that Ms Zhao’s family was introduced to Mr Singer by Michael Wu, a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley based in Pasadena, California.

A spokesperson for Morgan Stanley said that Wu had been terminated for not cooperating with an internal investigation into the matter and that the firm was cooperating with the officials. Mr Wu did not respond to a phone call.

At a court hearing in March, the lead prosecutor in the admissions case, Eric S Rosen, said that Mr Singer had tried to get Ms Zhao – whom Rosen did not identify by name – recruited to the Stanford sailing team and created a false profile of her supposed sailing achievements.

She was ultimately not recruited, but Mr Rosen said that she was admitted to Stanford University partly on the basis of those false credentials. He added that after Ms Zhao's admission, Mr Singer made a $500,000 donation to the Stanford sailing program.

Mr Singer has pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges, for masterminding a scheme that prosecutors say included both cheating on college entrance exams and bribing coaches to recruit students who were not actually competitive athletes.

The former Stanford sailing coach, John Vandemoer, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering.

According to Mr Rosen’s comments in his plea hearing in March, Mr Vandemoer did not help Zhao’s application “in any material way”, but accepted other donations from Singer to his programme in exchange for agreeing to reserve recruiting spots for Mr Singer’s clients.

Mr Vandemoer’s lawyer, Robert Fisher, declined to comment.

Ms Zhao appears to have participated in a recent conference hosted by the Princeton-US China Coalition. Her biography on the group’s website said she was planning to major in psychology and East Asian Studies and was interested in education policy in China. It added that she hoped to be involved in the Chinese government in the future.

Ms Zhao worked during a recent summer in a biology and chemistry research lab at Harvard, under the direction of Daniel G Nocera, a professor of energy at the university. Mr Nocera said in an email that Ms Zhao was unpaid and worked for Stanford University credit.

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At the Stanford campus, several students seemed unfazed by the news that one of their colleagues had paid millions to be there. Tamara Morris, a 20-year-old junior studying political science and African American studies, said she was unaware of the Zhao case. Conversation about the college admissions scandal had died down in recent weeks on campus, Ms Morris said, adding that she was not particularly bothered by the news.

“I know how I got in,” she said.

New York Times

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