And it all came tumbling down. On Tuesday, dozens of wealthy and influential parents were charged in a scheme that they allegedly bribed college coaches and other university insiders to get their kids into some of the country’s elite schools.
At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents, many of them prominent in law, finance, fashion, the food and beverage industry and other fields, were charged. Dozens, including Huffman, the Emmy-winning star of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” were arrested by midday.
The U.S. Attorney in the District of Massachusetts charged 50 people, including two television stars, CEOs and coaches, in federal court as part of a long-running, nationwide $25 million conspiracy to illicitly gain admission for their children to top colleges and universities. Both Felicity Huffman, the Emmy-winning star of ABC’s Desperate Housewives and Lori Loughlin (Full House, Fuller House) were charged as part of the alleged scheme, which dates back to 2011.
“I’ll speak more broadly, there were essentially two kinds of fraud that Singer was selling,” US Attorney Andrew Lelling said, referring to William Rick Singer, the figure at the center of the scheme.
The investigation was nicknamed “Operation Varsity Blues,” and it revealed the most frequent fraudulent activities.
“One was to cheat on the SAT or ACT, and the other was to use his connections with Division I coaches and use bribes to get these parents’ kids into school with fake athletic credentials,” Lelling said at a press conference in Boston.
Some of the parents did either one act or the other, while some did both.
According to the unsealed court documents, the allegations include the following, among others things:
- bribing college entrance exam officials to facilitate cheating on college entrance exams;
- bribing coaches and administrators to designate applicants as recruited athletes (when they were not athletes) to gain admission to colleges and universities;
- using a charitable organization to conceal bribery payments;
- having third parties take classes and exams in place of their children and submitting the earned grade as part of the students’ college applications;
- submitting falsified applications for admission that contained fraudulently-obtained exam scores, grades, awards and athletic activities
The real problem with this is that, in this case, it’s a zero-sum-game situation. There are only so many spots in these schools, and for every wealthy and influential parent who got their child into one of these schools by cheating to get them there, there was another child who worked very hard to get in, and was denied, because a rich kid took his place.
From Fox News:
Here are just some who were charged:
William Rick Singer, 58, of Newport Beach, Calif., owner of the Edge College & Career Network and CEO of the Key Worldwide Foundation, was charged in an Information with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice.
Mark Riddell, 36, of Palmetto, Fla., was charged in an Information with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering.
John Vandemoer, 41, of Stanford, Calif., the former sailing coach at Stanford University, was charged in an Information with racketeering conspiracy.
These people were charged with racketeering conspiracy:
Igor Dvorskiy, 52, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., director of a private elementary and high school in Los Angeles and a test administrator for the College Board and ACT;
Gordon Ernst, 52, of Chevy Chase, Md., former head coach of men and women’s tennis at Georgetown University;
William Ferguson, 48, of Winston-Salem, N.C., former women’s volleyball coach at Wake Forest University;
Martin Fox, 62, of Houston, Texas, president of a private tennis academy in Houston;
Donna Heinel, 57, of Long Beach, Calif., the senior associate athletic director at the University of Southern California;
Laura Janke, 36, of North Hollywood, Calif., former assistant coach of women’s soccer at the University of Southern California;
Ali Khoroshahin, 49, of Fountain Valley, Calif., former head coach of women’s soccer at the University of Southern California;
The following were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud:
Michael Center, 54, of Austin Texas, head coach of men’s tennis at the University of Texas at Austin
The below were charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud:
Gregory Abbott, 68, of New York, N.Y., the founder and chairman of a food and beverage packaging company;
Marcia Abbott, 59, of New York, N.Y.;
Gamal Abdelaziz, 62, of Las Vegas, Nev., the former senior executive of a resort and casino operator in Macau, China;
Diane Blake, 55, of San Francisco, Calif., an executive at a retail merchandising firm;
Todd Blake, 53, of San Francisco, Calif., an entrepreneur and investor;
Jane Buckingham, 50, of Beverly Hills, Calif., the CEO of a boutique marketing company;
Gordon Caplan, 52, of Greenwich, Conn., co-chairman of an international law firm based in New York City;
I-Hin “Joey” Chen, 64, of Newport Beach, Calif., operates a provider of warehousing and related services for the shipping industry;
Read the full list here.
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