Feds bust coaches and parents for $25 million in college admission bribes
The Justice Department issued indictments across six states in a $25-million college admissions bribery and racketeering scandal that implicated nine top college coaches, three performance test administrators, and at least 33 wealthy parents.
The indicted parents include the television star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli; the actress Felicity Huffman; and TPG private equity mogul William E. McGlashan, Jr.
Justice Department prosecutors for the District of Massachusetts revealed that the fraud and bribery schemes were run by Newport Beach, Calif. college preparatory consultant William Singer's Edge College & Career Network and the nonprofit "Key Worldwide Foundation," referred to as "The Key."
The Key's website referred to itself as "the nation's largest private life coaching and college counseling company." Singer was described as a coach and dedicated father who empathized with the stress families endure regarding college acceptances.
Singer has pleaded guilty to bribing ACT and SAT test administrators and college coaches from such prestigious schools as Stanford, USC, Yale, Wake Forrest, University of Texas at Austin, Georgetown, and UCLA. The scheme, involving the creation of phony athletic credentials to justify the recruitment of unqualified applicants, has not ensnared any of the elite university administrators.
U.S. attorney Andrew E. Lelling stated in a press conference that the nationwide Justice Department investigation involved 200 agents. Lelling emphasized, "The parents are the prime movers of this fraud." He lamented: "The real victims in this case are the hardworking students" who were defrauded in favor of "far less qualified students and their families who simply bought their way in."
Wealthy parents made payments of up to $1.2 million to get their children freshman admission invitations to elite schools. The indictment reveals that the fraudsters conspired to mail false photographs, transcripts, athletic awards, and other credentials to college admissions officers.
One case involved a high school boy whose parents paid at least $50,000 to fraudulently gain an "accommodation" as a learning-disabled child. A complicit ACT test proctor then allotted the student extra time to take the ACT standardized performance test, making sure the student scored high enough to be accepted as a USC freshman.
The phony applications involved sports such as soccer, crew, water polo, and volleyball. For example, parents wired a $200,000 donation to the "The Key," and a child with no rowing experience was recruited for the USC crew team based on a photograph of another student at another high school.
Since many parents tried to disguise bribes as "donations" to "The Key," it is likely that there will be further charges for defrauding the Internal Revenue Service. Attempts by individuals to evade or defeat paying taxes have penalties of up to five years in prison and not more than $250,000 per individual. Committing fraud and making false statements can add up to another three more years in prison and $250,000 per individual.
Prosecutors said students were not charged, because their parents and consultants did not make them aware of the fraudulent test scores and application scams.