Parents will often do anything for their children.
In March 2019, the College Admissions Scandal revealed just how far some parents were willing to go to give their kids a shot at a college education. And, just how far one company and several coaches were willing to go to make it happen.
Continue reading to learn about how the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice unfolded.
Key Details of the College Admissions Scandal
- Orchestrator: William “Rick” Singer, CEO of The Key, a college admissions prep company
- Number of families involved: More than 750
- Bribes paid: $25 million
- Total number of people charged: 51
- Number of parents charged: 33
- Timespan: 2011 to early 2019
- Schools involved: Georgetown University, Stanford University, The University of California, Los Angeles, The University of San Diego, The University of Southern California, The University of Texas, Wake Forest University, Yale University
One Scandal, Two Schemes
Ringleader William “Rick” Singer was identified early on as the orchestrator of the college admissions scandal. He used his company The Key to help wealthy parents give their kids a better chance at being accepted to a selective university. Singer arranged this through an SAT and ACT cheating ring and a sports recruitment scheme.
The sports recruitment scheme involved parents bribing coaches (through Singer) into giving their child a spot on their sports team regardless of his or her athletic ability. Coaches accepted these bribes, giving away spots on the team to these fake “players”. For example, actress Lori Laughlin allegedly paid $500,000 to have her two daughters listed as crew team recruits despite their lack of experience or interest in rowing.
The college entrance exam scheme involved parents paying proctors (through Singer) to correct answers on their child’s standardized tests. This ensured their child would meet the admissions requirements at their desired school. For example, actress Felicity Huffman pled guilty to paying $15,000 (disguised as a charitable donation) to have a proctor correct her daughter’s SATs.
Rick Singer pled guilty to both schemes and the related charges in March 2019. He was charged with racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. During his hearing, Singer said, “I created a side door that would guarantee families would get in.” He faces up to 65 years in prison along with a $1.25 million fine.
During the investigation, Singer wore a wire for the FBI, helping them bring down his own company.
Notable Parties Charged in the College Admissions Scandal
More than 50 parents, coaches, and exam proctors pled guilty to or still face charges related to the college admissions scandal.
Celebrity Parents Involved
Lori Loughlin & Mossimo Giannulli
Mossimo Giannulli, fashion designer, and Lori Loughlin, an actress best known for her role as Aunt Becky on Full House, allegedly spent $500,000 to have their children listed as crew team recruits despite them having never rowed.
Loughlin and Giannulli have both maintained their innocence and their case is headed to trial in Fall 2019.
Felicity Huffman, actor best known for playing Lynette Scavo on Desperate Housewives, pled guilty to giving $15,000 to William Singer to have a proctor alter her oldest daughter’s SAT scores. She received a 14 day jail sentence, a year of supervised probation, 250 hours of community service, and a $30,000 fine.
Buckingham is the founder and president of boutique marketing firm Trendera and author of “The Modern Girl’s Guide to Sticky Situations.” She pled guilty to paying William Singer $50,000 in exchange for having someone take the ACT in place of her son. Buckingham was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
She is awaiting sentencing.
Click here for more details on the charges for all 33 parents.
College Coaches Involved
Several college coaches have also been charged with their involvement in the college admissions scandal. Most have been removed from their positions or placed on a temporary leave of absence pending an internal investigation by the college.
Michael Center: This men’s head tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin pled guilty to conspiracy charges and accepting $100,000 in bribes.
Gordon Ernst: This former head tennis coach at Georgetown plead not guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge. His indictment alleges that he accepted $2.7+ million in bribes.
William Ferguson: This women’s volleyball coach at Wake Forest is charged with one count of racketeering conspiracy and is accused of accepting $100,000 in bribes to help a student move off the wait list.
Laura Janke: This former assistant women’s soccer coach at the University of Southern California plead guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering charges. Janke admitted to creating fake athletic profiles to help Singer’s clients look more legitimate. Her sentencing hearing is on October 17, 2019.
Ali Khosroshahin: This former head women’s soccer coach at the University of Southern California pled guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering. He accepted $200,000+ in bribes from Rick Singer in exchange for recruiting four fake soccer players.
Rudolph Meredith: This former women’s head soccer coach at Yale pled guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering. He accepted $1+ million in bribes. He must forfeit more than $865,000.
Jorge Salcedo: This former men’s head soccer coach at the University of California, Los Angeles plead not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering. Prosecutors allege that he accepted $200,000 in exchange for recruiting two fake student athletes.
John Vandemoer: This former sailing coach at Stanford pled guilty to racketeering charges and of accepting $610,000 in bribes. Vandemoer was sentenced to one day in prison, to two years supervised release, and to pay a $10,000 fine.
Jovan Vavic: This former water polo coach at the University of Southern California plead not guilty to accepting $250,000 in bribes. USC fired him.
A Brief Timeline of the College Admissions Scandal
The college admissions scandal, also nicknamed Operation Varsity Blues, started in 2011, but the scheme didn’t come into the public eye until early 2019. The Justice Department and the FBI investigated the case for over a year before charging any of the involved parties.
Look at some key moments of the scandal thus far:
Federal prosecutors in Boston charge 50+ people, including ringleader Rick Singer. Rick Singer pleads guilty to four charges.
Twelve of the defendants plead not guilty and the U.S. Department of Education notifies all 8 involved schools that they are under investigation.
Yale’s former women’s soccer coach, Rudy Meredith, pleads guilty to accepting $900,000 in bribes in exchange for recruiting students to the soccer team despite their lack of ability.
Peter Jan Sartorio becomes the first parent (out of 33) to plead guilty, admitting he paid $15,000 to have someone correct his daughter’s ACT answers.
Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli and 14 other parents are indicted with conspiring to commit fraud and launder money.
Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli plead not guilty to their charges of money laundering conspiracy and mail fraud.
Michael Center, the former men’s tennis coach and the University of Texas, pleads guilty to accepting a $100,000 bribe.
It is discovered two families allegedly paid millions of dollars to get their children into Stanford and Yale
Federal prosecutors discover that even more families are involved in the scandal than originally suspected
Felicity Huffman pleads guilty to charges of fraud conspiracy, admitting she paid $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT scores improved.
Georgetown University expelled two students whose parents participated in the college admissions scandal. In return, the students filed a civil action suit against the college.
John Vandemoer, former Stanford sailing coach, is the first party sentenced. He is sentenced to one day in prison, to two years supervised release, and to pay a $10,000 fine.
Felicity Huffman is the first parent sentenced. Her sentence is 14 days in prison, a year of supervised probation, 250 hours of community service, and a $30,000 fine.
Devin Sloane, an LA-based business executive, is sentenced to four months in prison, 500 hours of community service over two years, two years of supervised probation, and a fine of $95,000.
Stephen Semprevivo, an LA-based business executive, is sentenced to four months in prison and a $100,000 fine. He previously pled guilty to paying $400,000 to have son admitted to Georgetown as a fake tennis recruit.
Still to Come with the College Admissions Scandal
The aftermath of the college admissions scandal is still coming to light as federal prosecutors discover more involved parties.
In the coming months, sentencing hearings for those who have already pled guilty will continue. Prosecutors will also keep looking for more involved parties to charge with their participation in the scandal. These parties may include parents, students, and coaches.
The trial of Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli is anticipated to take place in Fall 2019.
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