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Vancouver businessman David Sidoo charged in U.S. college bribery scandal

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  • VANCOUVER — A prominent Vancouver businessman and philanthropist is among 50 people charged in what United States authorities are alleging is the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted.

    Advantage Lithium CEO David Sidoo, a celebrated donor to the University of British Columbia and a former Canadian Football League player for the B.C. Lions and Saskatchewan Roughriders, is accused of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in Massachusetts.

    Sidoo’s lawyer, Richard Schonfeld, said in a statement that his client has been recognized for his philanthropic endeavours, which are “the true testament to his character.”

    “The charge that has been lodged against David is an allegation that carries with it the presumption that he is innocent. We look forward to representing our case in court, and ask that people don’t rush to judgment in the meantime.”

    None of the allegations has been proven in court.

    The U.S. Justice Department says Sidoo, 59, was arrested in San Jose, Calif., on Friday and he appeared in a California court on Monday. No date has been set for his initial appearance in federal court in Boston.

    An indictment alleges Sidoo paid $100,000 in 2011 to have an individual secretly take the SAT in place of his older son. Sidoo also emailed copies of his son’s driver’s licence and student card for the purpose of creating a falsified identification card for the individual, it asserts. 

    The individual, whose name is redacted, flew from Tampa, Fla., to Vancouver to take the SAT on behalf of Sidoo’s son, the indictment alleges. The person was directed not to obtain too high of a score, because Sidoo’s son had previously taken the exam himself and scored 1,460 out of 2,400, it says.

    The person used the falsified identification card to pose as Sidoo’s son to take the SAT in his place, scoring 1,670, the indictment says.

    The indictment says the score was emailed to an administrator at Chapman University, a private California university, where Sidoo’s son was admitted and later enrolled.

    Sidoo also paid someone to pose as his older son to take a Canadian high school graduation exam on his behalf in Vancouver in 2012, the indictment alleges. It does not disclose the amount Sidoo is accused of paying.

    Both of Sidoo’s sons attended St. George’s School, a prestigious private school in Vancouver. The school issued a statement Tuesday saying it had only just learned of the allegations.

    “We take matters like this very seriously and we are conducting our own internal investigation,” it said.

    The indictment also alleges Sidoo agreed to pay another $100,000 in 2012 for someone to take the SAT in place of his younger son. The person was directed to obtain a high score because Sidoo’s younger son had not previously taken the SAT, and the person scored 2,280, it says.

    Sidoo paid the agreed-upon sum by wire transfer to a company bank account in California the following year, it says.

    In 2013 and 2014, the falsified SAT scores obtained on behalf of his younger son were sent to universities as part of his college applications, including Yale University and Georgetown University, the indictment asserts.

    The score was also sent to the University of California-Berkeley, where the younger son was accepted and later enrolled, it says.

    The indictment also references an alleged phone conversation between Sidoo and an unidentified individual on or around Oct. 25, 2018. In the call, Sidoo noted that his older son was applying to business school, the indictment says.

    “I thought you were gonna call me and say I got a 2100 on my GMAT,” Sidoo allegedly said, referencing a standardized test that is widely used as part of the business school admissions process with a highest possible score of 800.

    The unnamed person allegedly responded, “They don’t have a 2100 for the GMAT. But I would do my best to get it for ya,” to which Sidoo allegedly replied, “I know.”

    If convicted of the charge, Sidoo must forfeit any property that is derived from proceeds traceable to the offence, the indictment says.

    At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents including Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among those charged in the investigation, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.

    No students were charged, with authorities saying that in many cases the teenagers were not aware of what was going on.

    Sidoo graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1982 where he held a four-year football scholarship with the UBC Thunderbirds. After graduating, he was the first Indo-Canadian to play professionally in the CFL.

    He retired from football in 1988 and pursued a career in brokerages and private investment banking. He was founding shareholder of American Oil & Gas Inc., which was sold in 2010 for over US$600 million, according to his website. He is now CEO of Advantage Lithium, a lithium explorer and developer.

    Sidoo has received the Order of B.C. and is a member of the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame.

    He is also a former board member of the University of British Columbia, where he helped establish a foundation that supports the Thunderbirds. A field on campus is named after him.

    Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

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    Scheer accuses Trudeau of ‘stacking the deck’ to get re-elected

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  • OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer says the Liberals’ decision to name an anti-Conservative union to a panel that will decide which media outlets receive government funding is the latest example of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “stacking the deck” in his favour to get re-elected in October.

    Scheer told The Canadian Press today he believes the decision to include Unifor on the panel — which will determine eligibility for a $600-million bailout package —is unacceptable and will undermine the credibility of the panel’s work.

    Unifor has campaigned against the Conservative party and the union has recently published tweets calling itself Scheer’s “worst nightmare.”

    Scheer says this is the latest in a string of moves by Trudeau to give himself an upper hand ahead of the fall federal election.

    He also points to changes made to pre-election spending for political parties that impose restrictions that he says mainly affect the Conservative party, while no limits have been placed on government spending or travel in advance of the writ period.

    Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez has defended Unifor’s place on the panel, saying the union represents over 12,000 journalists and media workers and has been included among other journalism groups to ensure broad representation from the industry.

    The Canadian Press

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    Police say it’s “impressive” no arrests were made after Raptors celebrations

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  • Toronto police say it’s “impressive” that they didn’t have to arrest anyone after the Raptors’ historic win on Saturday night sent thousands of celebratory fans careening onto the streets.

    The roar of fans cheering and chanting “We the North” and “Let’s go Raptors” flooded the downtown core after Canada’s sole NBA team earned a spot in the final for the first time in franchise history.

    On social media, videos emerged of fans running into intersections and dancing on top of streetcars and buses, but on Sunday, police spokeswoman Katrina Arrogante confirmed that not a single arrest was made.

    “It’s impressive. It certainly is,” said Arrogante. “We’re amazed — police were there to keep the peace and that’s exactly what happened.”

    The festivities ramped up shortly after 11 p.m. when the Raptors defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 100-94, becoming the Eastern Conference champions and advancing to the NBA Finals.

    Earlier in the day, fans lined up for hours to pack Jurassic Park, but a thunderstorm prompted Toronto police to post on Twitter that they wouldn’t open the fan zone on schedule because of safety concerns. The ban was lifted an hour later and Jurassic Park quickly overflowed with Raptors supporters who braved the rain to watch the game outside Scotiabank Arena.

    There was a heavy police presence as some fans got rowdy, but officers say everyone managed to stay out of trouble as the celebrations continued.

    Arrogante said officers were called to various spots around the city to assist with crowd control and directing traffic, but no one was arrested. She said she saw videos of fans dancing on streetcars but said there were no reported injuries, and in terms of arrests: “nothing came out of that,” she said.

    “It turned out better than it could have,” said Arrogante.

    She said police will be out again Thursday night when the Raptors play the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors in Game 1 and she hopes fans will continue to have fun safely.

    Arrogante said fans planning on drinking should get a designated driver or take public transit.

    “We’re reminding anyone that is going to be celebrating or taking part in any events forthcoming of the playoffs, is to be respectful.”

    Alanna Rizza, The Canadian Press

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