(CNN) — The mother of a Chinese student who was admitted to Stanford University said the family gave $6.5 million to the man at the center of a massive college admissions scandal as a donation for scholarships and funding.
Fifty people have been charged in the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted in the United States. The scandal has ensnared celebrities such as Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, none whom spent as much as the Chinese woman.
In a statement provided through her attorney, the woman identified as Mrs. Zhao admits giving $6.5 million to the foundation of William “Rick” Singer, the ring leader of the scam.
Zhao said she’d sought college advisory services from him because she was not familiar with the admission process for colleges in the United States.
After her daughter got into Stanford, the statement said, Singer asked her for a donation to the university through his foundation. Singer told her the donation was “for the salaries of academic staff, scholarships, athletics programs and helping those students who otherwise will not be able to afford to attend Stanford,” Zhao said.
The statement from her attorney, Vincent Law, did not provide her first name or information about her husband or her daughter.
But in a 2017 video posted on a popular Chinese platform Douyu, a student who identified herself as Yusi Zhao said she was admitted to Stanford through her own hard work.
“This year I am admitted to Stanford. I’m really lucky I’d like to say,” said Zhao in the 90-minute video. “I want to tell you all that I gained my admission into Stanford through my own hard effort. … I wasn’t doing well academically when I was in elementary school, but I can now go to Stanford after working hard.”
Yusi Zhao is the daughter of Chinese billionaire Zhao Tao, chairman of Shandong Buchang Pharmaceuticals, according to the Stanford Daily.
Zhao Tao responded to the media reports in a statement released on his company’s website saying, “My daughter’s study in the US is personal and family issue,” and has no ties to Shandong Buchang Pharmaceuticals.
Mother says she fell victim to the scam
While Singer’s company provided “educational advisory services,” she said, it did not guarantee admission into any school. Her daughter has a record of “good academic performance and extracurricular achievements,” and had offers from several US colleges, she said.
“Since the matters concerning Mr. Singer and his foundation have been widely reported, Mrs. Zhao has come to realize she has been misled, her generosity has been taken advantage of and her daughter has fallen victim to the scam,” the statement said.
Former Morgan Stanley adviser Michael Wu said he referred the parents to Singer.
“Mr. Wu was introduced to Rick Singer through Morgan Stanley as a trusted source. Singer, in an effort to line his own pockets with millions of dollars from a Morgan Stanley client, stated in an email, before any payment was made, that the money would be paid to Stanford University ‘to endow staff salaries and scholarships’ and ‘to fund athletics special programs and the university’s underserved outreach programs to help the needy to afford to attend Stanford,” Wu said in a statement through his attorney.
A spokeswoman for Morgan Stanley told CNN the company is cooperating with investigators, and said Wu had been terminated from his job.
In a statement, Stanford University said it did not get the millions of dollars and did not know about it before it was widely reported.
“It’s important to clarify that Stanford did not receive $6.5 million from Singer, or from a student’s family working with Singer,” it said. “Stanford was not aware of this reported $6.5 million payment from the family to Singer.”
The student, her parents and the man who introduced them have not been charged in the scandal.
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