Federal authorities have ensnared more than 40 celebrities and rich people in a college cheating scandal that involved paying a consultant up to $6.5 million to get their children admitted to elite colleges like USC, Stanford, and Georgetown.
Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were among more than four dozen people charged in a nationwide college admissions cheating scandal that involved wealthy individuals purportedly paying up to $6.5 million to place their children into elite universities, say court records released Tuesday.
The alleged scam — it’s said to have placed students in top colleges including Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, University of Southern California, UCLA and the University of Texas — was run by William Rick Singer of California, who helped parents get their children’s college admission through bribes, court documents unsealed in Boston claimed. Officials have been investigating the case, named “Operation Varsity Blues,” for more than a year.
Singer, an admissions consulting company founder, pleaded guilty in Boston federal court Tuesday afternoon to charges including racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The parents paid Singer’s charity, Key Worldwide Foundation, which received $25 million in total to guarantee the admissions. “This is a case where [the parents] flaunted their wealth, sparing no expense to cheat the system so they could set their children up for success with the best money can buy,” Joseph Bonavolonta, from the FBI’s Boston Field Office, said in a Tuesday news conference.
The children’s parents would allegedly pay a specified amount of money, fully aware it would be used to gain college admission. The money would then go toward an SAT or ACT administrator or a college athletic coach, who would fake a profile for the prospective student — regardless of ability, according to the charging documents.
Many of the kids were unaware of what their parents were doing and it appears that the schools were not directly involved.
Singer would help his clients’ children by having another individual take SAT or ACT tests on the youngsters’ behalf, officials said. Parents would allegedly pay up to $75,000 for each test and wire money to “charitable accounts.” He would purportedly discuss with his clients what SAT or ACT score was desired, aiming for something impressive but not overly so. He would then instruct Mark Riddell, of Florida, to take the exams for the students, or “replace the students’ exam responses with his own.” Riddell had been working with Singer since 2011, documents stated.
“Singer used the purported charitable donations from parents, at least in part, to bribe two SAT and ACT test administrators,” court documents stated.
Although the schools’ administration staffs were not involved, one of the schemes involved bribing college coaches to fake a profile of a student as a “recruit”:
A Georgetown tennis coach received bribes between 2012 and 2018 from Singer that amounted to more than $2.7 million, according to the documents.
“In exchange for the bribes, the Georgetown coach designated approximately 12 applicants as recruits for the Georgetown tennis team, including some who did not play tennis competitively, thereby facilitating their admission to the university,” documents read.
Fake SAT scores, fake athletic prowess — it seems to me that colleges would have had to determinedly look the other way while this scheme was happening right under their noses.
Rich kids have been finding their way into elite schools since America’s founding, so it’s not much of a surprise to anyone that they would have discovered a man like Mr. Singer, who profited handsomely by supplying an exclusive service to the wealthy.
I’m glad they caught them, but you have to wonder how many more William Rick Singers are out there gaming the system.