It reads like a Hollywood script.
Celebrities. CEO. Admission to the College. Allegations of cheating and corruption.
The U.S. District Attorney for Massachusetts has charged 50 people, including two TV stars, CEOs and coaches, in federal court in a long-running $ 25 million national conspiracy to illegally admit their children in the best colleges and universities. Felicity Huffman (Desperate housewives) and Lori Loughlin (Full House, Fuller House) were charged in connection with the alleged scheme, which dates back to 2011.
According to unsealed court documents, the allegation includes, among others:
- bribe those responsible for university entrance exams to facilitate cheating on university entrance exams;
- bribing coaches and administrators to nominate candidates as recruited athletes (when they were not athletes) for admission to colleges and universities;
- use a charity to cover up bribe payments;
- ask third parties to take courses and exams for their children and submit the grade obtained in the context of student applications for university;
- submitting falsified admission applications containing fraudulently obtained exam results, marks, awards and sports activities
According to Department of Justice officials, “Operation Varsity Blues” (as the investigation was known) revealed that the most common form of fraudulent activity included cheating on SAT or ACT exams, or using connections with Division I coaches to offer fake sports credentials for admission. Some parents would have benefited from one of these types of activities, while others would have benefited from both.
According to the unsealed indictments, Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, allegedly “agreed to pay bribes totaling $ 500,000 in exchange for appointing their two daughters as rookies on the crew team of USC – despite the fact that they did not participate in the crew – – thus facilitating their admission to USC. “
The indictments also allege that Huffman “made an alleged charitable contribution of $ 15,000” which was used “to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of his eldest daughter.” .
the schematics were reportedly organized by William “Rick” Singer, who helped parents get their children admitted to elite colleges and universities. Singer ran the for-profit admissions and consulting firm The Edge College & Career Network and the non-profit The Key World Foundation. Of those charged, 33 are parents and 13 are coaches and associates of Singer’s businesses, including two administrators of the SAT and ACT tests.
“As the indictment makes clear, the Justice Department believes that Yale was the victim of a crime perpetrated by her former women’s football coach. The university has fully cooperated with the investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case progresses, ”said Tom Conroy, spokesperson for Yale University.
In some cases, Singer allegedly asked a third party to take or modify the answers to the SAT or ACT exams for students, or Singer allegedly conspired with athletic coaches to forge athletic credentials of non-athletic recruits in order to assist them. to be admitted to university. Singer has pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering, tax conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He faces up to 65 years in prison and a fine of $ 1.25 million.
“I am absolutely responsible for it,” Singer told US District Judge Rya W. Zobel, according to NBC News. “I got everything in place. I got everyone in place and made the payments directly.” The singer was released on $ 500,000 bail.
Among others, the Justice Department alleges that colleges and universities include Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Boston University, Northeastern, UCLA, USC, University of Texas at Austin, and Wake Forest. Schools are not targets or accomplices in investigations, even if individual coaches are indicted. Some of these institutions have published statements on the allegations.
“Georgetown University is deeply disappointed to learn that former tennis coach Gordon Ernst has allegedly committed criminal acts against the University that amount to an unprecedented breach of trust. Mr Ernst has not coached our tennis team since December 2017, following an internal investigation which revealed that he had broken University rules regarding admissions. Georgetown fully cooperated with the government’s investigation. We are reviewing the details of the indictment and will take appropriate action, ”Georgetown spokesperson Meghan Dubyak said.
Some college coaches are said to have taken the money themselves, while others are said to have donated money to the college or university.
“The charges brought today are troubling and should be of concern to all higher education,” the NCAA said in a statement. “We are reviewing these allegations to determine to what extent NCAA rules may have been violated.”
No students have been charged, but some of these students have been admitted (and can still attend) colleges and universities under false pretenses. It remains to be seen what sanctions or academic implications, if any, the children might incur.
Since the publication In this story, the named defendants have not released any statements. While the investigation remains active, Justice Department officials noted that it was premature to discuss potential sentences or financial penalties, but the charges are felonies and could result in jail time. Additional targets, including parents and coaches, may be charged.