World News

Test administrator pleads guilty in U.S. college admissions scandal

BOSTON (Reuters) - A former college entrance exam administrator pleaded guilty on Friday to charges that she participated in a vast U.S. fraud and bribery scheme that has resulted in charges against dozens of wealthy parents.

Federal prosecutors in Boston said Niki Williams, a former employee of the Houston Independent School District, accepted bribes in exchange for facilitating cheating on ACT and SAT exams.

Williams, 46, appeared before a judge by video to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Defense lawyer Eric Tennen called Williams a dedicated special education teacher who administered hundreds of exams.

“Unfortunately, in this capacity, in times of need, she exercised poor judgment and committed a criminal act,” he said. “For that, she is sorry.”

She faces sentencing on Dec. 21.

Fifty-eight people have been charged in the scandal, in which prosecutors said parents conspired with California college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer to secure their children’s college admissions fraudulently.

The parents include “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, who received a 14-day prison sentence, and “Full House” star Lori Loughlin, who was sentenced to two months in prison.

Singer pleaded guilty in March 2019 to facilitating cheating on college entrance exams and using bribery to secure the admission of students to colleges as fake athletic recruits.

Prosecutors said Williams, who worked at public high school in Houston, Texas, accepted bribes from Singer and another person to facilitate cheating on college entrance exams she administered.

She did so by allowing one of Singer’s associates, Florida private school counselor Mark Riddell, to proctor the exams of the children of his clients and either secretly take ACT and SAT tests in their place or correct their answers, prosecutors said.

Riddell has pleaded guilty. As part of her plea deal, Williams agreed to forfeit $20,000 she earned through her crime.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by David Gregorio and Diane Craft