A woman who was locked up for five months in a Spanish prison after her arrest in the college admissions bribery scheme won’t spend any more time behind bars, a judge ruled Monday.
Xiaoning Sui, 49, of Surrey, British Columbia, was sentenced to time served after admitting to paying $400,000 to get her son into the University of California, Los Angeles, as a fake soccer recruit. During a sentencing hearing held via video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic, the judge said Sui has already been punished enough.
"I set a horrible example for my child and I was a bad influence. I promise that I will never do anything like that again," Sui told the judge through an interpreter.
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Sui, a Chinese citizen who moved to Canada in search of better educational opportunities for her son, was arrested in September while traveling in Europe. While awaiting extradition to the U.S., Sui was held in a Madrid prison, where she was locked in her cell for fifteen hours per day in conditions far worse than what other parents in the college admissions case have experienced in U.S. prisons, her lawyer said.
"It was a very isolating and anxiety-creating experience," attorney Martin Weinberg told the judge.
Prosecutors had also urged the judge for a sentence of time served, noting that Sui immediately sought to take responsibility for her crimes, among other things.
Prosecutors say Sui paid $400,000 to a sham charity operated by admissions consultant Rick Singer to have her son admitted to UCLA as a fake soccer recruit. Through a translator, Singer told Sui that he would write her son's application in a "special way" in order to guarantee that her son could get into the school, according to court documents.
Singer worked with Laura Janke, a former assistant soccer coach at USC, to fabricate an athletic profile depicting Sui’s son as a top soccer player, prosecutors said. Singer gave $100,000 to then-UCLA soccer coach Jorge Salcedo in exchange for his help with the scheme.
Both Singer and Janke have pleaded guilty. Salcedo has agreed to plead guilty but his hearing hasn't yet been held.
Sui’s son was admitted to UCLA as a soccer player in November 2018, authorities say, and was awarded a 25% scholarship. In September, UCLA said it had taken “immediate corrective action” after learning of the case.
More than 50 parents, coaches and others have been charged in the admissions cheating scheme involving prestigious universities across the country. Sui is among nearly two dozen parents who have pleaded guilty. Others include "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman, who paid $15,000 to rig her daughter's entrance exam.
A group of parents fighting the charges includes "Full House" actress Lori Loughlinand her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli. They are denying allegations that they paid $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters into USC as fake crew recruits.