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Yusi Zhao's family worked with leader of national scam, William 'Rick' Singer, article says

In April, Stanford University expelled a student identified by the Los Angeles Times on May 1, 2019, as Yusi Zhao, whose family allegedly paid $6.5 million for her admission into the university. Weekly file photo.

The family who paid the most to get their child into a selective college as part of a national college admissions scandal was identified on Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times as a Chinese family whose daughter gained admission to Stanford University.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Yusi Zhao, who was admitted to Stanford in the spring of 2017, and her family, who reportedly live in Beijing, paid college consultant William "Rick" Singer $6.5 million for her admission. The story cites sources familiar with the case who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about it.

The Weekly was unable to independently verify this. Zhao, reportedly the daughter of a Chinese billionaire, did not respond to emailed requests for comment. Her name is no longer listed on Stanford's online directory, though she was previously listed as an undergraduate student in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures.

A Hong Kong-based lawyer representing Zhao’s mother, identified only as “Mrs. Zhao,” released a statement Thursday stating she had made the $6.5 million contribution to Singer’s foundation in 2017 under the impression it would go to support “academic staff, scholarships, athletics programs and helping those students who otherwise will not be able to afford to attend Stanford,” attorney Vincent Law said. She made the contribution on April 21, 2017, just weeks after her daughter had been admitted to Stanford, according to Law.

She was introduced to Singer by a "third party," Law said. Singer gave educational advice and did not guarantee admission into any particular college or university, Law said. He represented his foundation "as a substantial and legitimate non-profit foundation for supporting

education," the attorney said.

“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,” Law said. “Both Mrs. Zhao and Yusi have been shocked and deeply disturbed by what have transpired, and have engaged attorneys to handle the matter."

Law declined to answer further questions about the case.

Stanford announced in April that it had expelled an unidentified student who it determined had falsified his or her college application and who was connected to the nationwide college-admission fraud scheme.

"Any credits earned have also been vacated," Stanford officials said. "The student is no longer on Stanford's campus."

Citing privacy laws, Stanford would not identify or confirm that Zhao is the student who was expelled, according to a statement posted Wednesday on a university webpage dedicated to the admissions case.

The Zhaos were not named as part of the federal indictment in March that charged 33 parents, including several Midpeninsula residents.

The university's former head sailing coach, John Vandemoer, has already been implicated in the admissions scheme and was fired shortly after the first federal indictment was announced. Vandemoer pleaded guilty to a federal charge of racketeering conspiracy.

According to Stanford, the expelled student had not received a recommendation from any coach and has not been affiliated with the Stanford sailing program or any other athletic team.

The university did, however, deem that the student is "associated with a contribution to Stanford from the foundation in the government investigation." That contribution was made several months after the student was admitted, according to the university.

The Los Angeles Times reported that "to ensure Zhao was admitted to Stanford, Singer targeted the school's sailing program, putting her forth as a competitive sailor despite there being no indication she competed in the sport."

According to the Department of Justice investigation, the Stanford sailing program received three gifts totaling $770,000. Stanford's statement on Wednesday emphasized that the university did not receive more than this amount and was unaware of the alleged $6.5 million payment until Wednesday's news reports.

Vandemoer acknowledged that he had accepted contributions to the sailing program in exchange for recommending two prospective students for admission to the university. Neither of these two had completed the application process and neither was admitted, according to Stanford.

The Los Angeles Times and New York Times reported that a financial adviser at Morgan Stanley in Southern California, identified as Michael Wu, connected the Zhao family to Singer. A spokesperson for Morgan Stanley confirmed that Wu worked in the Pasadena office and was "terminated for not cooperating with an internal investigation into the college admissions matter." Morgan Stanley is "cooperating with the authorities," the spokesperson said. Online, Wu is described as a the lead international client advisor of the Wu Group at Morgan Stanley in Pasadena; the group "focuses on servicing ultra-high-net-worth clients with Asian backgrounds."

A source familiar with Morgan Stanley's investigation said Wu was terminated in March.

On Thursday, a lawyer for Wu, who was first quoted in the Los Angeles Times, said in a statement provided to the Weekly that Wu was introduced to Singer by a "trusted source" at Morgan Stanley.

Singer wrote in an email that the funds would be paid to Stanford "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," according to Beverly Hills attorney Raymond Aghaian. Singer told Wu that admission to Stanford was not guaranteed, Aghaian said.

Wu was terminated while he was out of the country and "attempting to fully cooperate with Morgan Stanley," Aghaian said.

Zhao is listed as a delegate for the Princeton U.S. China Coalition's 2019 Global Governance Forum. An online biography for the event describes her as a Stanford sophomore hoping to major in psychology and East Asian studies and interested in educational policy in China. She "hopes to be involved in the Chinese government in the future" and organizes campus events at Stanford related to the U.S.-China relationship, the biography states.

Zhao was also listed last summer as a visiting undergraduate student from Stanford on the website of Harvard University's Nocera Lab, which studies energy conversion in biology and chemistry.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal identified a student whose family had paid Singer $1.2 million for their daughter's admission at Yale University. Sherry Guo, also a young woman from China, was a freshman at Yale until last month, her lawyer has told other media outlets. Her parents have not been charged.

Fourteen defendants, including four local parents, have agreed to plead guilty in the case. A Hillsborough couple formally entered guilty pleas on Wednesday for paying a college preparatory counselor $600,000 to guarantee their two daughters' enrollment into the University of Southern California, according to federal prosecutors.

Related content:

• Listen to the March 15 episode of "Behind the Headlines," where Palo Alto college adviser John Raftrey discusses the implications of the nationwide admissions bribery scandal, now available on our YouTube channel and podcast.

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Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

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Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on May 1, 2019 at 4:24 pm

[Post removed.]


4 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Downtown North
on May 1, 2019 at 4:40 pm

Stanford elected not to name the student citing privacy policy. If she and her family have not been charged, why is it OK to name and shame her?


28 people like this
Posted by Member 2
Agriculture Vector Gardening - Farm Card Backdrop Man Harvest Farmland Illustration Of Business 137210152 Gardener Farmer And Farms Farming Character Natural Woman
Post Washington License Under Upcoming Airport Through Rules Driver’s Is Id Your Enough Real Change Security The To Get - a resident of College Terrace
on May 1, 2019 at 5:02 pm

Stanford didn’t simply “elect” to not name the student. They are prohibited from doing so by federal law — FERPA, I believe. Their refusal to name the student does not at all imply innocence or the absence of wrongdoing on her or her parents’ part. In fact, the University’s decision to expel her after investigating the circumstances of her admission would suggest at least some degree of dishonesty was involved.

Similarly, the simple lack of charges currently filed against her or her parents should not be seen as any type of exoneration. Her parents are extremely wealthy foreign citizens. Those two factors — their massive wealth and foreign citizenship — make them more difficult to prosecute.


32 people like this
Posted by Incredible Tales Of Under The Table Dealings
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 1, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Wow. Who would pay $6.5M just to go to Stanford?

Is the diploma worth that much?

It's also amazing how many super-wealthy Chinese immigrants are now residing in the United States.

The American Dream has gone global.


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 1, 2019 at 5:50 pm

"Who would pay $6.5M just to go to Stanford?" Someone with $6500M.
"Is the diploma worth that much?" Depends who you reel in there as a spouse.

Financial adviser Michael Wu terminated from Morgan Stanley's Pasadena office.
Any admissions scandals brewing in that town?


60 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 1, 2019 at 9:22 pm

[Post removed.]


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2 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2019 at 9:35 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

@musical
From Web Link

“Mr. Wu was terminated for not cooperating with an internal investigation into the college admissions matter, and we are cooperating with authorities,” a Morgan Stanley spokeswoman said.


Agriculture Vector Gardening - Farm Card Backdrop Man Harvest Farmland Illustration Of Business 137210152 Gardener Farmer And Farms Farming Character Natural Woman
6 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 1, 2019 at 9:38 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

And from NBC News:

"The family of a Chinese student allegedly paid $6.5 million to the ringleader of the college admissions scandal to get their daughter into Stanford University, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told NBC News.

The parents of the student, identified as Yusi Zhao, have not been charged. They were referred to the scam's ringleader, William Rick Singer, by an employee at Morgan Stanley, the source said.

Zhao's parents reached Singer through a referral by a Morgan Stanley financial adviser, Michael Wu, according to a person familiar with the matter. Wu was fired in March, the person said.

A Morgan Stanley spokesperson said Wu was terminated for "not cooperating with an internal investigation into the college admissions matter.""


Agriculture Vector Gardening - Farm Card Backdrop Man Harvest Farmland Illustration Of Business 137210152 Gardener Farmer And Farms Farming Character Natural Woman 16 people like this
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 1, 2019 at 9:42 pm

Seems like people will pay anything (do anything) to get into a western country.
Sending a child to study abroad is often a tactic used to help get the rest of the family over.
East Coast "immigration via education" consultants charge outrageous prices as well – some charge over a million just to get a kid into a high school boarding school.


28 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
Agriculture Vector Gardening - Farm Card Backdrop Man Harvest Farmland Illustration Of Business 137210152 Gardener Farmer And Farms Farming Character Natural Woman
on May 1, 2019 at 10:05 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

@Paly Parent
Or just bring them over the border when they're little and they can get in state tuition and "first in family" priority.


18 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 2, 2019 at 12:19 am

Could someone explain how the student's parents are not being charged? Why are all the other 33 parents being charged but not this one? If there was enough evidence to expel the student from the university, then why isn't there enough evidence to charge the parents? Is the student being charged? Who is being charged in this case? who is bering charged in the Sherry Guo case?


18 people like this
Posted by more info
a resident of Green Acres
on May 2, 2019 at 12:52 am

More info and photos in the Daily Mail: Web Link
This story was covered in the WSJ days ago btw. It's about time PAO picked it up.


13 people like this
Posted by Fatberg
a resident of Professorville
on May 2, 2019 at 2:18 am

From the DailyMail article:

“It was first revealed last month that a Stanford student had been given the boot after her family gave $500,000 to the school's sailing coach. . . . In a bizarre twist however, the young woman gained admission on her own, and was never actually recruited by the sailing coach at the school.”

She got in on her own merits but the back-up plan torpedoed everything? Yikes.


12 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 2, 2019 at 5:47 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Who would pay 6.5 million dollars to get into Stanford? People similar to those who paid 6.5 million dollars in cash to buy a 3 bedroom house in Palo Alto, which was what happened with a home up for sale on my my block a few years ago.


18 people like this
Posted by Incredible Tales Of Under The Table Dealings
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 2, 2019 at 9:05 am

> Stanford is a non-profit in name only. In reality, they are a 26 billion dollar hedge fund that grows by any means necessary,

Excellent point. Stanford is a BUSINESS.


> Seems like people will pay anything (do anything) to get into a western country.

> Or just bring them over the border when they're little and they can get in state tuition and "first in family" priority.

Can you blame them for having these sentiments and in some cases...delusions?
The United States is still viewed by many as the land of opportunity and there are countless channels from which to generate personal wealth and lifestyle ambitions (i.e. entrepreurism, entertainment, professional sports, crime, lottery etc.).

All things considered, the wealthy Chinese ensnarled in this recent college scandal are no different than the cuthroat American industrialists/capitalists of the late 19th century through the pre-stock market crash of 1929.

The only difference is that the majority of them made their vast fortunes in China prior to settling in the United States.

This is just another convoluted tale of 'new money' and the price some people will pay to promote an 'ideal' outside/superficial perception of their children and of themselves as gloating parents (aka bragging rights).

Kind of sad (aka pathetic).


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21 people like this
Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 2, 2019 at 11:19 am

What Will They Do Next is a registered user.

Seems to me that Stanford should be investigated for participation in this scheme. How could they not wonder where these "donations" to sailing and other programs came from? Do they think people are that naive?


5 people like this
For To August 5 Know Buzz Things Fox17 23 Morning Posted by LKA
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 2, 2019 at 11:40 am

LKA is a registered user.

Is no one else reading the quotes form this girl’s online biography and thinking this looks much more like Maria Butina than like an immigration attempt? Chinese billionaires don’t need any round about way to get into this country. They can buy their way in.


4 people like this
Posted by member1
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2019 at 11:54 am

member1 is a registered user.

6.5. what does she get for that. Does she own the Dorm or will she have to share room? probably has accomodations and pays hired look alike tutors who are her double to take tests. Sounds like a movie!


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17 people like this
Posted by Not naive
a resident of Midtown
on May 2, 2019 at 12:29 pm

Do they think people are that naive?
Of course they do. Stanfordites are so above the masses that they think we are all naive peasants! They can live in their bubble and play their own games without fear of anyone noticing. And it mostly works, until the bubble bursts and people see what has been there all along. Now the cover-up language begins....


14 people like this
Posted by Stanford Alumni
a resident of another community
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23 hours ago

This is happening because Stanford has raised the bar to such a high level that countless individuals (prospective students & their parents) will always want to be a part of its aura.

You really can't blame them because the global prestige and recognition of an academic pedigree from one of the finest universities in the world goes a long ways.

What I can't understand is USC being considered in the same category.


17 people like this
Posted by Broken
a resident of Old Palo Alto
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23 hours ago

System is so broken. So unfair to hardworking kids.


2 people like this
Posted by Scottie Zimmerman
a resident of Midtown
21 hours ago

Scottie Zimmerman is a registered user.

When I think of Stanford, I think of a great university that has contributed generously to our community, our country, and our world. I admit I'm giving the university credit for the accomplishments of generations of Stanford graduates. But I'm not sure it's useful to separate the school from its illustrious students.

My comment is not relevant to the college admissions fraud, which I deplore. It's just that I have a high regard for what Stanford has accomplished ever since Charles Eliot, president of Harvard, declined to accept a large financial gift from Leland Stanford, who hoped to honor his deceased son, Leland Jr., by establishing a school in his name. I wanted to speak up for all the benefits we enjoy having Stanford University here in Santa Clara County.

Nobody has paid me for this comment or written it for me.


5 people like this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
19 hours ago

Web Link
Here Robert Reich articulates how the tax deductible status of elite universities, whose combined endowments exceed $550b, worsen the problems caused by income disparity, and force a tax burden on the rest of us (I went to Dartmouth but I don’t make significant gifts — and pay roughly 25% tax rate.)
In the wake of these scandals, and prosecutions, maybe we should true-up by removing the exemptions.


14 people like this
Posted by Donor Make Your Brown Eyes Blue
a resident of Stanford
15 hours ago

Does anyone NOT think Stanford was complicit in Singer's filth? Singer is tip of iceberg. Plenty of folks like Singer doing shady business with Universities.


5 people like this
Posted by Donor Make Your Brown Eyes Blue
a resident of Stanford
13 hours ago

"When I think of Stanford, I think of a great university that has contributed generously to our community, our country, and our world."

Agriculture Vector Gardening - Farm Card Backdrop Man Harvest Farmland Illustration Of Business 137210152 Gardener Farmer And Farms Farming Character Natural Woman
That's so interesting, because when I think of Stanford, I think of a corrupt, exploitative, tax avoiding corporation like Facebook.


4 people like this
Posted by duped?!
a resident of Downtown North
12 hours ago

According to the LA Times, the Zhaos claim that Singer duped them:
Web Link
Mrs. Zhao says she was shocked and disappointed that the $6.5 million they donated didn't go to scholarships for needy students. This of course doesn't explain why Molly Zhao indicated that she was a competitive sailor on her Stanford application. Perhaps she simply did so in solidarity with the other students on the sailing team she perceived as needy of scholarships?


3 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
7 hours ago

mauricio is a registered user.

Stanford's contribution to this area is highly overhyped and exaggerated. It would be a great area(it isn't anymore) without what Stanford has become, which is really a greedy and corrupting hedge fund. Right now Stanford is a major contributor to the ruination and corruption of this area.


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