IMG Academy suspended Mark Riddell, its director of college entrance exams, after he was indicted Tuesday as part of the federal government's investigation into a massive bribery and cheating scheme that entangled college coaches, administrators, actresses and CEOs.
Riddell, 36, is charged with being paid for secretly taking college entrance exams for actual students or replacing their answers with his own.
Riddell, of Sarasota, Florida, is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Federal prosecutors are seeking nearly $450,000 in forfeitures from him.
"Today we were made aware of the charges against Mark Riddell," IMG announced in a statement late Tuesday. "Riddell has been suspended indefinitely as we investigate this matter."
In a statement released through his attorney to the Tampa Bay Times, Riddell wrote: "I want to communicate to everyone that I am profoundly sorry for the damage I have done and grief I have caused those as a result of my needless actions. I understand how my actions contributed to a loss of trust in the college admissions process.
"I assume full responsibility for what I have done. I do, however, want to clarify an assertion that has arisen in the media coverage. I absolutely, unequivocally never bribed anyone, nor has the Information filed by the U.S. Attorney's Office charged me with any form of bribery.
"I will always regret the choices I made, but I also believe that the more than one thousand students I legitimately counseled, inspired, and helped reach their goals in my career will paint a more complete picture of the person I truly am."
A federal indictment said test proctors in Houston and Los Angeles were paid to overlook the cheating. Parents paid between $15,000 and $75,000 per test to have someone else take the exams. Riddell was paid $10,000 for each test he took or in which he changed answers, according to prosecutors.
According to Riddell's biography, which has since been removed, on the IMG website, he graduated from IMG in 2000 and Harvard in 2004. He was a member of the Crimson men's tennis team from 2000 to '04 and was a three-time All-Ivy League selection in doubles. He helped Harvard reach the 2004 NCAA championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
One parent -- identified as Parent 1 in the indictment -- made a contribution of $50,000 to a charity controlled by William "Rick" Singer, a California admissions consultant who pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges including racketeering conspiracy, prosecutors said.
In July, Parent 1's son became ill and was unable to travel to Houston to take a standardized test as planned. Singer and Parent 1 arranged for Riddell to take the exam, according to federal prosecutors.
Singer provided Riddell with an example of Parent 1′s child's handwriting so Riddell could imitate it while taking the exam. Riddell flew to Houston to take the test and returned the same day to Tampa, court documents show.
Riddell scored 35 on the test -- the highest score possible is 36.
The parent wired a partial payment of $35,000 to Key Worldwide Foundation, Singer's nonprofit, as part of the agreed-upon fee, prosecutors said. IMG Academy, a prestigious boarding school in Bradenton, Florida, was established in 1978 by legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri. It expanded to include other sports over the years.
IMG has helped produce 133 professional athletes, three Heisman Trophy winners and 32 Olympic medal winners, according to its website.
This past year, nine IMG football players were included in the ESPN 300, including players that signed with Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Oregon, Penn State and USC.