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Mom Who Paid Millions in College Admissions Scandal Says She Was Scammed

A parent who paid millions to the man behind a nationwide college admissions scam claims she is a victim in the case.

Identified by her attorney only as Mrs. Zhao, the mother from China paid $6.5 million to help facilitate her daughter's admission to Stanford University. However, Zhao claims she believed the payment was a charitable donation that Rick Singer, who organized the entire scheme, would use to help underprivileged children.

"The purpose of the donation was for the salaries of academic staff, scholarships, athletic programs and helping those students who otherwise will not be able to afford to attend Stanford," wrote Vincent Law, a Hong Kong-based attorney representing the family.

Zhao's daughter was admitted to Stanford in 2017 after the family said they sought legitimate assistance from Singer. According to Law, they were unfamiliar with the U.S. college process and connected with Singer through a third party.

"Since the matters concerning Mr. Singer and his foundation have been widely reported, Mrs. Zhao has come to realize she has been misled," Law wrote.

Zhao is not one of the 33 parents charged in the case announced by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling in March. Friday, his office would not comment on their involvement.

The investigation has involved dozens of parents, college coaches and administrators who prosecutors said helped students get admitted to elite schools either by cheating on entrance exams or pretending they were athletic recruits. Singer, who pleaded guilty in March, used a fake charity to funnel the money paid by parents.

In response to reports about Zhao's payment, Stanford University denied ever receiving such a large sum of money from Zhao or Singer. They did, however, concede that it is possible some of the family's money was included in payments to the school's former sailing coach, John Vandemoer, who admitted to taking bribes as part of the scheme.

"The total amount that came to the Stanford sailing program through Singer's foundation was $770,000. This consisted of $110,000 and $160,000 associated with two students — neither of whom was admitted to Stanford — and $500,000 associated with a third student. We do not know whether any of the $770,000 was part of the $6.5 million reportedly given to Singer," the statement said on the school's website.

As a result of the federal case, Stanford rescinded the admission of one student when they discovered "material in the student's application to Stanford was false."

Because of privacy rules, the school would not identify the student.

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