Mother who paid $6.5M to college scammer says she was duped

BOSTON (AP) — A mother said Thursday that she paid the consultant at the center of the sweeping college admissions bribery scheme $6.5 million after her daughter got into Stanford University because she was led to believe the money would go toward helping underprivileged students.

Massachusetts' top federal prosecutor said in March that parents shelled out as much as $6.5 million in the scheme, which authorities say involved bribing athletic coaches at elite universities and rigging standardized test scores. But details about the family that paid the huge sum remained a mystery until this week.

A statement released by a Hong Kong lawyer who says he represents the mother said she gave the money to Rick Singer's foundation in 2017 after her family used his consulting services and her daughter got into the school. The attorney identified the mother only as Mrs. Zhao and would not provide her full name.

The mother said Singer had asked her to make the donation and told her that it would support academic staff salaries, scholarships, athletic programs and "helping those students who otherwise will not be able to afford to attend Stanford."

"Since the matters concerning Mr. Singer and his foundation have been widely reported, Mrs. Zhao has come to realize she has been misled, her generosity has been taken advantage of, and her daughter has fallen victim to the scam," said the statement from Vincent W.C. Law, a partner at Mayer Brown.

An email was sent to a lawyer for Singer on Thursday.

The mother is not among the 33 prominent parents who have been charged in the case and it's unclear whether prosecutors are still investigating the family. Authorities have suggested in court documents that more charges are coming.

Singer, who pleaded guilty in March, used his sham charity to funnel bribes to coaches and test administrators to help the children of privileged parents get into selective universities across the country, prosecutors say.

Prominent parents charged in the case include actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin's fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli.

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BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: Olivia Jade Giannulli and Lori Loughlin attend WCRF's 'An Unforgettable Evening' at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on February 28, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for WCRF)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 28: (L-R) Olivia Jade Giannulli, Lori Loughlin and Isabella Rose Giannulli attend WCRF's 'An Unforgettable Evening' at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on February 28, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for WCRF)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: (L-R) Heidi Anne Pillsbury, Olivia Jade, Lori Loughlin and Beth Hayes Giannulli celebrate the Olivia Jade X Sephora Collection Palette Collaboration Launching Online at Sephora.com on December 14, 2018 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images for Sephora Collection)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: (L-R) Olivia Jade Giannulli, Lori Loughlin and Isabella Rose Giannulli celebrates the Olivia Jade X Sephora Collection Palette Collaboration Launching Online at Sephora.com on December 14, 2018 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images for Sephora Collection)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Lori Loughlin (L) and Olivia Jade Giannulli celebrate the Olivia Jade X Sephora Collection Palette Collaboration Launching Online at Sephora.com on December 14, 2018 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images for Sephora Collection)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 24: Lori Loughlin and Olivia Jade Giannulli are seen on March 24, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Actress Lori Loughlin and daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli attend Women's Cancer Research Fund's An Unforgettable Evening Benefit Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on February 27, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Lori Loughlin, Olivia Jade Giannulli arrives at the The Women's Cancer Research Fund's An Unforgettable Evening Benefit Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel on February 27, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 25: Lori Loughlin and Olivia Jade attend the PrettyLittleThing By Kourtney Kardashian Launch on October 25, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/ WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 04: Olivia Jade and mother Lori Loughlin attend People's 'Ones to Watch' at NeueHouse Hollywood on October 4, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 13: (L-R) Isabella Giannulli, Lori Loughlin and Olivia Giannulli arrive at the Teen Choice Awards 2017 at Galen Center on August 13, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 13: (L-R) Isabella Giannulli, Lori Loughlin and Olivia Giannulli arrives at the Teen Choice Awards 2017 at Galen Center on August 13, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 13: (L-R) Isabella Giannulli, Lori Loughlin and Olivia Giannulli attend the Teen Choice Awards 2017 at Galen Center on August 13, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JULY 27: Bella Loughlin, Actress Lori Loughlin and Olivia Loughlin arrive for the 2017 Summer TCA Tour - Hallmark Channel And Hallmark Movies And Mysteries on July 27, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Greg Doherty/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 27: Actress Lori Loughlin (C) and her daughters Isabella Rose (L) and Olivia Jade Giannulli (R) attend the Hallmark Channel And Hallmark Movies And Mysteries 2017 Summer TCA Tour at on July 27, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 21: Olivia Jade and Lori Loughlin attend Marie Claire's Fresh Faces event at Doheny Room on April 21, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 21: Olivia Jade and Lori Loughlin attend Marie Claire's Fresh Faces event at Doheny Room on April 21, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 21: Actress Lori Loughlin and Olivia Jade attend Marie Claire's 'Fresh Faces' celebration with an event sponsored by Maybelline at Doheny Room on April 21, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for Marie Claire)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 23: Actress Lori Loughlin with her daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli are seen on March 23, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Hollywood To You/Star Max/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 16: Lori Loughlin (C) and daughters Isabella Giannulli (L) and Olivia Giannulli attend the premiere of Netflix's 'Fuller House' on February 16, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 16: Lori Loughlin (C) and daughters Isabella Giannulli (L) and Olivia Giannulli attend the premiere of Netflix's 'Fuller House' on February 16, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 10: Actress Lori Loughlin and Olivia Jade Giannulli attend the Premiere of Awesomeness Films' 'Snervous Tyler Oakley' at the Regency Bruin Theatre on December 10, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 17: (L-R) Patricia Riley, Bailee Madison, Lori Loughlin, Olivia Giannulli and Isabella Giannulli pose for a photo prior to the World Premiere Screening of 'Northpole: Open for Christmas' at The Grove on November 17, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 29: Actress Lori Loughlin (R) and daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli attend the Summer TCA Tour - Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies And Mysteries at a private residence on July 29, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.(Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Lori Loughlin, Isabella Giannulli and Olivia Giannulli arrive for the Hallmark Channel Presents 'Northpole' Premiere Screening at La Piazza Restaurant on November 4, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
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The mother said she — "like many families from Asia" — was not familiar with the college admissions process in the U.S. and was led to believe that Singer's charity was legitimate. She said Singer's consulting firm "did not guarantee admission into any particular school."

"The donation is in the same nature as those that many affluent parents have been doing openly to prestigious universities," her attorney's statement said.

Stanford said last month that it had expelled a student connected to the bribery scandal who had lied about her sailing credentials in her application. The school said Thursday that it couldn't confirm whether the student whose family paid $6.5 million is the same student who was expelled.

University officials had previously said the student was admitted without the recommendation of former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, who pleaded guilty to taking bribes in exchange for helping students get into the elite university.

The school said a $500,000 contribution to the sailing program was made several months after the student was admitted.

Stanford said it wasn't aware of the $6.5 million payment to Singer until it was reported by the media and did not receive that amount of money from Singer or from the family working with the consultant.

Huffman, who starred in the ABC series "Desperate Housewives," is among 14 parents who have agreed to plead guilty in the case. She will appear in Boston federal court on May 13 to admit to charges that she paid $15,000 to have a proctor correct the answers on her daughter's SAT.

Loughlin and Giannulli, who are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California, are among 19 parents still fighting the charges. They have pleaded not guilty and have not publicly commented on the allegations.

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