This is why 2 Houstonians are accused in college exam cheating scandal

By Matt Aufdenspring - Digital Managing Editor, Debbie Strauss - Special Projects Producer

HOUSTON - Two Houston residents are connected to what prosecutors describe as a scheme to cheat on college entrance exams or offer bribes for admission.

According to an indictment just unsealed, Lisa "Niki" Williams, an assistant teacher at a public high school in Houston, was named as a defendant.

Williams, 44, is also as an administrator for the College Board and ACT.

Another defendant named is Martin Fox, who was president of a private tennis academy and camp in Houston. 

Fox, 62, and Williams are charged with racketeering conspiracy.

READ: List of those involved in college admissions and testing bribery scheme

FBI Houston agents arrested Williams and Fox early Tuesday morning.

KPRC2 obtained surveillance video of the arrest. In the video, agents can be heard yelling, "FBI! Warrant!"

Video captures arrest of Houston resident

Both appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon.

A judge told Williams not to interact with any co-defendants. She told a judge she is currently not monitoring any testing and the judge said she is not allowed to do so during the case. 

Bond for Williams was set at $20,000. She was seen leaving the courthouse Tuesday afternoon.

Fox was being held on a secured $50,000 bond, after prosecutors were concerned he was a flight risk.

Williams and Fox are due back in court on March 25.

READ the full indictment here

According to court documents, Williams accepted bribes from the accused ringleader, William "Rick" Singer, who founded The Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key, and The Key Worldwide Foundation.

"Between roughly 2011 and 2018, wealthy parents paid Singer about $25 million in total to guarantee their children admissions to elite schools," U.S. attorney Andrew Lelling said.

Singer is accused of telling parents to have their children claim learning disabilities to obtain medical documentation that allowed the students to have extended time to take the exams.

"To facilitate the scam, Singer counseled parents to take their children to a therapist and get a letter saying that because of purported learning disabilities or other issues, the child needed additional time to complete the ACT or the SAT. Once the companies that administer those exams had agreed to the extra time, Singer arranged for the child to take the exam individually with one of the administrators he had bribed, either at a location in Houston or a location in California," Lelling said.

Court documents state parents would pay Singer between $15,000 and $75,000 to have another person, usually a Palmetto, Florida, resident named Mark Riddell, take the exams for the students or to replace the students' exam responses with his own.

VIDEO: Federal investigators discuss Williams' connection to cheating scandal

The indictment claims Singer paid money to Williams, who administered the exams at a Houston public high school.

Fox is accused of funneling money from Singer to Williams. However, Singer also paid Williams $5,000 directly in one instance in July 2018, court documents state.

Singer would then pay Riddell $10,000 per test, according to the indictment.

Universities involved include The University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University, Yale University, Georgetown University, Stanford University, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Southern California and the University of San Diego.

VIDEO: Federal prosecutors discuss UT's connection to cheating scandal

In 2015, Fox introduced Singer to a tennis coach at UT to gain admission for a student by paying the coach $100,000 and Fox $100,000, according to the indictment.

The student did not play tennis competitively, yet was a recruit for the UT tennis team and gained admission, court records state.

Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were among parents accused of paying bribes to get their children into the aforementioned universities.

John Wilson, of Hyannis Port, Massachsetts, was also arrested by FBI Houston agents in Houston Tuesday and appeared in federal court. Prosecutors were seeking a $1 million secured bond because of his strong ties to Europe. They were uncertain as to why Wilson was in Houston.

Wilson, 59, is the founder and CEO of a private equity and real estate development firm.

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