Yusi Zhao’s parents paid at least $6,500,090 to get their daughter into Stanford. Ninety dollars of that went to the undergraduate application fee; the rest went to Rick Singer, the mastermind behind the scheme that helped the children of wealthy and powerful people gain admission into elite universities.
The seven-figure sum is by far the most anyone is accused of giving Singer for unscrupulous admissions assistance. The parents of Sherry Guo, who paid $1.2 million to get their daughter into Yale, are the only others known to have paid Singer more than a $1 million.
Singer’s scheme involved cheating on standardized tests and paying bribes to secure coach-controlled spots on athletic teams. It’s the latter strategy he used in Zhao’s case, attempting to secure a spot on Stanford’s sailing team despite the fact that she didn’t sail competitively.
The charity Singer used to launder money donated $770,000 to Stanford’s sailing charity in the names of three separate students: two who were not admitted and one who was expelled last month.
Stanford’s former sailing coach, John Vandemoer, pleaded guilty to racketeering and admitted to collaborating with Singer. It’s not currently known if he was involved in Zhao’s case.
The Los Angeles Times, the first outlet to report Zhao’s identity, says that the family likely met Singer through Michael Wu, a Morgan Stanley manager based in southern California. Wu has since been fired by the bank for what it claims is a lack of cooperation with an internal investigation into the matter, something Wu disputes.
There’s still a lot that’s not known about Zhao’s case, starting with her current status at Stanford, though a student directory currently lists her as inactive. It’s also strange that she was never actually recruited to the sailing team but somehow still secured admission.
The fate of Zhao and her family, and whether or not they’re being investigated for possible indictment, is also unclear.