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David Sidoo, a Vancouver-based businessman.handout

David Sidoo, a former professional football player and philanthropist, stepped back as the head of two Vancouver energy firms Thursday ahead of a court appearance as part of a widespread U.S. college-admissions scandal.

Advantage Lithium Corp. said Thursday that Mr. Sidoo has “taken a temporary leave of absence” as chief executive officer of the company, which is developing lithium mines in Argentina. Callum Grant, a company director, was appointed interim CEO.

Mr. Sidoo will also step aside as CEO of East West Petroleum Corp., which invests in oil and gas projects in New Zealand and Romania, although he will remain on the company’s board of directors.

“In light of this legal action Mr. Sidoo has decided it would be in the best interests of the Company to take a leave of absence from his executive role,” East West Petroleum’s board of directors said in a statement Thursday. The company did not name a replacement CEO.

East West Petroleum was in the midst of acquiring a California cannabis company and spinning off its energy operations into a separate business when Mr. Sidoo was arrested at the airport in San Jose, Calif., last week. Shareholders were set to vote on the deal on Friday, but the company said it would cancel the vote after Mr. Sidoo’s arrest. Both B.C.-based companies are listed on the TSX Venture exchange.

A former member of the University of British Columbia’s board of governors, Mr. Sidoo is a well-known supporter of the school’s athletics program.

The university said Wednesday that it has no plans to make changes to a field named after Mr. Sidoo at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium.

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“We won’t be making any changes to the field name right now,” UBC spokesperson Kurt Heinrich said in an e-mail. “At this point we are monitoring the situation to determine what, if any, actions the university may take after a verdict in the case.”

Mr. Sidoo, 59, is set to appear in a U.S. federal court in Boston on Friday. His lawyers say he plans to plead not guilty to charges of wire and mail fraud. Federal prosecutors allege that Mr. Sidoo paid US$200,000 to William Singer, the owner of college preparatory business Edge College & Career Network, to arrange for another person to take college entrance exams on behalf of his sons. He was arrested last week when he arrived at the airport in San Jose for business meetings, then released on Monday after posting a US$1-million bond.

Mr. Sidoo is among more than 50 people, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, charged in what prosecutors say was a campaign by wealthy families to pay for fake test scores and bribe school officials to help their children get accepted into prestigious universities such as Yale, Georgetown and Stanford.

According to the indictment, Mr. Singer asked Mark Ridell of Palmetto, Fla., to fly to Vancouver in December, 2011, to take the SAT, a standardized test, in place of Mr. Sidoo’s son at St. George’s School, a prestigious private school in the city.

Mr. Singer told Mr. Ridell “not to get too high a score” on the test because Mr. Sidoo’s son had only scored 1460 out of 2400 when he took the test himself, court documents say. Mr. Ridell scored 1670. The family then sent the test results to Chapman University, a private university in Orange, Calif., where he enrolled in January, 2012.

In 2012, Mr. Sidoo paid for Mr. Ridell to travel to a high school in Orange County, Calif., to take the SAT for Mr. Sidoo’s younger son, prosecutors allege, scoring 2280.

Mr. Sidoo’s son sent the fraudulent SAT scores to several colleges, including Yale and Georgetown universities, but enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley, according to the indictment. Prosecutors also allege that Mr. Sidoo asked Mr. Singer last October to get a high score on a graduate school entrance exam for his oldest son, who was applying to business school.

One of Mr. Sidoo’s lawyers, Richard Schonfeld, said his client “has been repeatedly recognized for his philanthropic endeavours, which is a true testament to his character,” adding: “We look forward to presenting our case in court, and ask that people don’t rush to judgment in the meantime.”

St. George’s School said in a statement that an internal investigation could find “no school or provincial exams written at St. George’s School by the student in question on or around the date named at the indictment.”

A Chapman University spokesperson said the school was co-operating with the federal investigation. “We are not aware nor have we been advised that we have been involved in any wrongdoing,” the school said in a statement.

The university did not confirm whether Mr. Sidoo’s son had attended or graduated from the school. The University of California, Berkeley did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Sidoo’s sons declined a request for comment. His lawyers stressed that neither of Mr. Sidoo’s sons were named in the indictment or alleged to have committed any crime.

“David Sidoo’s children have not been accused of any impropriety and have achieved great accomplishments in their own right,” they wrote. “Any attack on the Sidoo children is unwarranted.” Prosecutors allege that the schemes were typically orchestrated by parents, sometimes without their children’s knowledge.

With files from Joe Friesen and Reuters