Test administrator pleads guilty in U.S. college admissions scandal

BOSTON, Sept 25 (Reuters) - A former college entrance exam administrator pleaded guilty on Friday to charges that she participated in a vast U.S. fraud and bribery scheme that has resulted in charges against dozens of wealthy parents.

Federal prosecutors in Boston said Niki Williams, a former employee of the Houston Independent School District, accepted bribes in exchange for allowing cheating on ACT and SAT exams.

She appeared before a federal judge in Boston by video to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Williams, 46, is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 21. Her attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Fifty-eight people have been charged in the “Varsity Blues” scandal, in which prosecutors said parents conspired with California college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer to secure their children’s college admissions fraudulently.

The parents include “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, who received a 14-day prison sentence, and “Full House” star Lori Loughlin, who was sentenced to two months in prison.

Singer pleaded guilty in March 2019 to facilitating cheating on college entrance exams and using bribery to secure the admission of students to colleges as fake athletic recruits.

Prosecutors said that Williams, an assistant teacher at public high school in Houston, accepted bribes from Singer and another person in the scheme to facilitate cheating on college entrance exams she administered.

She did so by allowing one of Singer’s associates proctor the exams of the children of his clients and either secretly take ACT and SAT tests in their place or correct their answers, prosecutors said.

That associate was Mark Riddell, a Florida private school counselor who has pleaded guilty.

As part of her plea deal, Williams agreed to forfeit $20,000, which prosecutors said equal to how much she earned through her crime. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by David Gregorio)