Since the day federal authorities revealed celebrities and wealthy parents shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their children into elite universities as part of a nationwide college admissions scandal, the identity of the family who paid William “Rick” Singer $6.5 million to get their child in Stanford University remained a mystery — until now.
Yusi Zhao was admitted to Stanford in 2017 after her family, who live in the Chinese capital of Beijing, allegedly paid Singer — who has since pleaded guilty in the scheme — to gain admission to the private California university, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing sources familiar with the case.
Authorities revealed one parent paid $6.5 million, but did not identify Zhao’s family as those who paid Singer and neither she nor her parents have been charged in the case. It’s unclear if they are being investigated at this time.
Zhao no longer attends Stanford after the school rescinded her admission in April. In the same month, Zhao appeared to have attended a conference hosted by the Princeton-U.S. China Coalition. In her bio for the program, Zhao was described as a sophomore at Stanford who hoped to major in Psychology and East Asian Studies.
“She hopes to be involved in the Chinese government in the future and is willing to learn more about Sino-US relationship. She is currently on the committee of Forum for American Chinese Exchange and organizes events related to US-China relationship on campus,” the bio stated.
Zhao’s family allegedly sought out Singer’s help after a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley, identified as Michael Wu in reports, introduced them. A spokeswoman for the company said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that Wu was fired from his position.
“[Wu] was terminated for not cooperating with an internal investigation into the college admissions matter. We are cooperating with the authorities,” the spokeswoman said.
Singer tried to get Zhao admitted to Stanford by painting her as a potential recruit for the university’s sailing team and creating a fake profile for her complete with sailing achievements she never earned. She wasn’t recruited to the sailing team, but the fake profile ultimately helped her gain admission, the New York Times reported. Singer then made a $500,000 donation to the sailing program.
John Vandemoer, the former Stanford sailing coach who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering, reportedly did not help Zhao “in any material way” but accepted money from Singer to the program in exchange for open spots on the team.
At least 14 parents, including Huffman, agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges while 19 others, including Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, are disputing the allegations. Federal prosecutors have repeatedly said more people are expected to be charged in the bribery scheme.
"You can rest assured that there is going to be a new wave of indictments," said former federal prosecutor Bradley Simon. "They wouldn't need so many cooperators for existing cases. What seems to me is that these individuals who are cooperating are helping the government to make new cases.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.