Chapman proposes to donate admissions scandal money

Money donated to Chapman University by Rick Singer’s Key Worldwide Foundation will potentially be donated to two non-profit organizations, Higher Ground and Padres Unidos, according to Chapman’s president Daniele Struppa. Photo by Kali Hoffman

The attorney general of California is set to review an Aug. 23 proposal by Chapman to donate the money received by Key Worldwide to two Orange County based charities. Key Worldwide, the organization owned and operated by college admissions consultant Rick Singer – who pleaded guilty to a money laundering conspiracy, a racketeering conspiracy and a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. – made two donations to Chapman in 2017 and 2018 which totaled $400,000.

“We have proposed to donate the money to Higher Ground and Padres Unidos,” said Chapman President Daniele Struppa. Higher Ground, an Anaheim organization that serves at-risk youth and Padres Unidos, a group committed to helping low-income Hispanic families, will not receive the money donated to Chapman from Key Worldwide until the proposal is agreed to by California’s attorney general.

The proposal comes off the heels of an independent investigation into Chapman’s involvement with the college admissions scandal, which resulted in 51 defendants nationwide accused of bribery and paying for falsified test scores, amongst other charges. Chapman enrolled film production major Dylan Sidoo in 2012, whose SAT test was taken by expert test-taker Mark Riddell. Dylan Sidoo’s father, David Sidoo, paid Riddell $100,000 to take the SAT test for his son in 2011, who later enrolled at Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. Riddell pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges in Boston federal court April 12, accused of conspiring with Singer. A copy of the SAT score was emailed to an unidentified Chapman administrator in December 2011, according to the original indictment.

Sidoo plead not guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in April 2019. He is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 2, according to court documents reviewed by The Panther.

The independent investigation did not find “any conduct that it considered to be illegal, and no Chapman University employee has been indicted,” according to an Aug. 21 email from Struppa. A separate investigation lead by the District of Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) is ongoing. Struppa has not been notified as to when the investigation will be completed.

Although the investigation into Chapman’s connection to Singer and Key Worldwide found no legal wrongdoing, “many families who worked with Singer” donated to Chapman, with a portion of Key Worldwide’s donations “directed to Dodge College of Film and Media Arts,” according to a May 23 email from Struppa.

“We learned that families have offered (themselves, or through Singer) to donate while students were in the admissions pipeline,” Struppa’s May 23 email detailed. “Several donations were made in close proximity to an admissions decision.”

Multiple students who worked with Singer were admitted to Chapman, none of which were found to have had falsified test scores. As of the conclusion of the independent investigation, Dylan Sidoo was the only student identified to have false test scores. He attended Dodge College until 2014.

In response to the independent investigation’s findings, an external consulting firm has been put in place to review Chapman’s policies and legal office structures. The consultants will actively review Chapman’s policies until December, Struppa said.