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Canadian Mom Who Allegedly Bought Son’s Way Into UCLA Arrested in ‘Varsity Blues’ Scandal

Olivia Messer
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A Canadian mother who allegedly bought her son’s way into the University of California, Los Angeles, was arrested on Monday night in Spain, making her the 52nd defendant charged in the sprawling college-admissions scandal that earned actress Felicity Huffman a prison sentence last week.

Xiaoning Sui, 48, of Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, according to an indictment that was unsealed on Tuesday in Boston federal court. Sui’s alleged crimes were first reported by the Los Angeles Times last month.

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Sui is one of dozens of parents accused of paying Rick Singer—a former private college-admissions consultant and the ringleader of the nation’s largest-ever college cheating and bribery scheme—to facilitate her son’s entry into an elite school.

Sui allegedly wired Singer $400,000 to gain her son admission at UCLA as a fake soccer recruit. Other parents have been accused of paying their children’s way into Yale, Stanford, and the University of Southern California, among other elite schools.

Felicity Huffman, Full House star Lori Loughlin, and dozens of other prominent parents were arrested in March 2019 over their alleged involvement in the scheme, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” by the FBI.

Huffman on Friday became the first of 34 charged parents to be sentenced in the case. A federal judge ordered her to spend 14 days in prison, pay a $30,000 fine, serve one year of probation, and volunteer 250 hours of community service after she pleaded guilty in May to paying a Harvard graduate $15,000 to correct her eldest daughter Sophia’s answers on the SAT. The bribe secured Sophia a 400-point bump on the college entrance exam and, ironically, tanked the 19-year-old’s chances of getting into her dream school.

Singer told Sui in August 2018 that her son could be “guaranteed” admission to UCLA in exchange for $400,000, according to the indictment. He has pleaded guilty to fraud, racketeering, money laundering, and obstruction.

Laura Janke, a former University of Southern California soccer coach who also pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in May, then allegedly created a fake soccer profile for Sui’s son, which “described him as a top player for two private soccer clubs in Canada,” according to a Department of Justice press release.

Once the profile was fabricated, Sui allegedly wired money to Singer’s sham charity organization, Key Worldwide Foundation, and Sui’s son was admitted to UCLA a few weeks later as a recruited soccer player on a 25-percent scholarship.

Sui faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. She is being held in Spain until authorities can seek her extradition to Boston on the charges.

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