Amid reports that a prominent Chinese family paid $6.5 million to the mastermind of the national college admissions scandal to get their daughter into Stanford, a video has surfaced of the young woman encouraging others that they too can get into elite schools if they “try hard.”
In the video, apparently made a couple of years ago, the young woman, Yusi Zhao, says she is 17, has just graduated from high school in England and been accepted to Stanford. She speaks with a smile, mostly in Chinese with occasional breaks into English, seated in a chair and wearing a white shirt, at times with her hair down and others with it pulled back.
“Hello guys I just finished high school,” she says in the few minutes of the more than 90-minute video in which she speaks in British-inflected English. “This year I’m admitted to Stanford. I’m very lucky I would like to say. I’d like to thank everyone that’s helped me and all of that. I just felt like you can always achieve the things that you want to be if you try hard.”
According to the New York Times and other news reports, the video is Yusi Zhao, whose father is Zhao Tao, chairman of Buchang Pharmaceuticals. The company specializes in the development, production and sale of patent medicines and boasts of being among the country’s top pharmaceutical enterprises. The company had no immediate response Friday.
A lawyer representing the young woman’s mother, Vincent Law, told the New York Times that the family gave $6.5 million to the college admissions scandal’s mastermind, William “Rick” Singer, believing it was a legitimate donation to Stanford. Stanford this week said it did not receive a contribution that large tied to Singer. Law, whose office is listed with the state bar association in Shanghai, could not be reached for comment.
The lawyer released a statement from the mother stating that “this generous act was not only done for the good of the school and its students, but also done out of the love and support of Yusi by a caring mother,” the New York Times reported.
Stanford has said it expelled one student linked to contributions through Singer after concluding that the student’s application contained false information. Citing federal student privacy law, the university would not say whether that student was Zhao, who is not currently listed as a student.
Federal prosecutors in March charged Singer and 49 others, including 33 American parents from coast to coast, in a wide-ranging scheme of taking payments from wealthy families to pay for cheating on entrance exams and bribing college coaches to get their kids into elite universities.
Zhao and her parents have not been charged and are not named in the affidavits and charging documents. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Boston, which is prosecuting the case, would not comment on their reported gift and involvement.
Singer, who ran a Newport Beach college admissions consulting firm, has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges and cooperated with investigators in the ongoing investigation. Stanford’s head sailing coach, John Vandemoer, also has pleaded guilty, as have coaches from Yale and the University of Texas and a hired test cheater.
Parents charged in the case include two Hollywood actresses and Silicon Valley business executives. Fourteen of the 33 charged parents have pleaded or agreed to plead guilty in agreements to cooperate in the ongoing investigation. No students whose parents are implicated in the case have been charged.
Vandemoer worked with Singer to accept payments to his sailing program in exchange for reserving student athlete recruitment slots open for Singer’s rich clients.
Stanford has said it received a total of $770,000 in contributions through Singer to its sailing program on behalf of three students. Two were applicants Vandemoer recommended as student sailing recruits who declined to enroll. An additional $500,000 came in on behalf of a third student who had been admitted months earlier, though not as a student sailor, and that the student was expelled after the university found falsified information in the application.
Stanford this week said it was unaware of any $6.5 million payment on behalf of a student and insisted it has not received more than the $770,000 it has said was received through Singer. The university would not say whether some of that money could have come from the reported $6.5 million payment to Singer.