Published on Mar 12th, 2019
Via Reuters: BOSTON — Federal prosecutors charged 50 people on Tuesday in a $25 million scheme to help actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, CEOs and other wealthy Americans cheat their children's way into elite universities, including Yale and Stanford.
Federal prosecutors in Boston charged William "Rick" Singer, 58, with running the racketeering scheme through his Edge College & Career Network. His network served a roster of clients including actresses and chief executives in what prosecutors said was the largest-ever college admissions fraud scam unearthed in the United States.
"These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege," Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney in Boston, said at a news conference. "For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected."
Prosecutors said Singer's operation arranged for fake testers to take college admissions exams in place of his clients' children, and also bribed coaches to give admissions slots meant to be reserved for recruited athletes even if the applicants had no athletic ability.
Parents paid from $100,000 to as much as $2.5 million per child for the services, which were masked as contributions to a scam charity Singer runs, prosecutors said.
Singer is scheduled to plead guilty on Tuesday in Boston federal court to charges including racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice, according to court papers. He could not be reached for immediate comment.
Some 300 law enforcement agents swept across the country on Tuesday to make arrests in what agents code-named "Operation Varsity Blues." Huffman and Loughlin were among those arrested, and were due to appear in federal court in Los Angeles later on Tuesday, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors have named 33 parents, 13 coaches, and associates of Singer's business, but said the investigation continues and more parents and coaches may also be charged.
Other parents charged include Manuel Henriquez, the chief executive of specialty finance lender Hercules Capital; Gordon Caplan, the co-chairman of international law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher; Bill McGlashan Jr., who heads a buyout investment arm of private equity giant TPG Capital; and Douglas Hodge, the former CEO of the investment management firm Pimco.
The test administrators in the those centers took bribes of tens of thousands of dollars to allow Singer's clients cheat, often by arranging to have a student's wrong answers corrected after completing the exam or having another person take the exam.
In many cases, the students were not aware that their parents had arranged for the cheating, prosecutors said, although in other cases they knowingly took part. None of the children are being charged for now.
Singer also helped parents stage photographs of their children playing sports or even Photoshopped children's faces onto stock images of athletes downloaded from the internet to exaggerate their athletic credentials.
Once admitted, the students either never showed up on the field, played for a short while before dropping out or feigned injury, prosecutors said.
John Vandemoor, a former Stanford University sailing coach, is also scheduled to plead guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges.
Wake Forest said in a statement it had placed head volleyball coach Bill Ferguson on administrative leave after he was among the coaches accused of accepting bribes.
Three other cooperating witnesses, including a former head coach of women's soccer at Yale, have agreed to plead guilty, prosecutors said.
According to the criminal complaint, investigators heard McGlashan of TPG Capital listening to Singer tell him to send along pictures of his son playing sports that he could digitally manipulate to make a fake athletic profile.
"The way the world works these days is unbelievable," McGlashan said to Singer, according to court papers.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen and Joseph Ax in New York; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Scott Malone, Bernadette Baum and Bill Berkrot)