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50 Executives and Celebrities Charged Over Admissions Fraud at Top US Schools
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=36093"><span class="small">Jamiles Lartey, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Tuesday, 12 March 2019 12:46

Lartey writes: "US federal prosecutors have charged Hollywood actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin along with almost 50 other people over a $25m scheme to help wealthy Americans buy their children's way into elite universities including Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and the University of Southern California."

Felicity Huffman. Thirty-three parents were charged. (photo: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)
Felicity Huffman. Thirty-three parents were charged. (photo: Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

50 Executives and Celebrities Charged Over Admissions Fraud at Top US Schools

By Jamiles Lartey, Guardian UK

12 March 19

Scheme helped wealthy Americans buy their children’s way into elite universities including Yale, Georgetown and Stanford

S federal prosecutors have charged Hollywood actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin along with almost 50 other people over a $25m scheme to help wealthy Americans buy their children’s way into elite universities including Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and the University of Southern California.

Two hundred FBI agents were involved in the investigation dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” which exposed how parents bribed college coaches and insiders at testing centers to get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.

William “Rick” Singer, 58, was charged by federal prosecutors in Boston with running the racketeering scheme through his Edge College & Career Network, which served a roster of clients including chief executives and Hollywood actors.

Thirty-three parents, including Huffman and Loughlin, were charged, as well as 13 college sports coaches and associates of Singer’s business. Dozens, including Huffman, were arrested by midday.

“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” Andrew Lelling, US attorney for the district of Massachusetts, said in a press conference on Tuesday morning. “Based on the charges unsealed today, all of them knowingly conspired with Singer and others to … buy their children’s admission to elite schools through fraud.”

Lelling said the parents included CEOs, successful securities and real estate traders, a fashion designer, and the co-chairman of a global law firm.

Parents spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5m to guarantee their children’s admission, officials said.

Huffman and her husband, the Oscar-nominated actor William H Macy, are accused of making a $15,000 payment disguised as a charitable donation as part of a scheme to allow their daughter to take part in the college entrance-exam cheating scam. Macy is not named in the filings and has not been indicted.

According to charging documents, Singer’s operation arranged for examiners to take college admissions exams in place of his clients’ children, advise them of correct answers, or change their test answers after they had been completed. Lelling said that in cases where the test was being administered for the second time, scores were raised in a calculated way so as not to raise suspicion.

In other cases, Singer allegedly conspired with college athletic coaches for applicants to be listed as recruited athletes, even if, as in several cases, they had never even played the sport in question. Pictures of students’ heads were even Photoshopped on to the bodies of athletes to create fake image profiles.

The coaches worked at such schools as Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles.

Former Yale women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith was among those caught up in the investigation, which prosecutors said took over a year to complete. Meredith is accused of accepting a $400,000 check from the family of a Yale applicant, and facilitating her admission to the university as part of the women’s soccer team, according to filings.

Meredith left his position with the team last year. He pleaded guilty and helped prosecutors build the case against others. John Vandemoer, the former head sailing coach at Stanford, was also expected to plead guilty Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

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.

Loughlin, who was charged along with her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, appeared in the ABC sitcom Full House, while Huffman starred in ABC’s Desperate Housewives. Both were charged with fraud and conspiracy.

Court papers said a cooperating witness met with Huffman and Macy at their Los Angeles home and explained to them that he “controlled” a testing center and could have somebody secretly change her daughter’s answers in a college entrance exam. The person told investigators that the couple agreed to the plan.

Representatives for Huffman, Loughlin and Macy also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Among the parents charged were Gordon Caplan of Greenwich, Connecticut, a co-chairman of an international law firm based in New York; Jane Buckingham, CEO of a boutique marketing company in Los Angeles; Gregory Abbott of New York, founder and chairman of a packaging company; and Manuel Henriquez, CEO of a finance company based in Palo Alto, California.

During the morning’s press conference Lelling’s sense of outrage at the unfairness of the scheme was apparent. “The parents charged today, despite already being able to give their children every legitimate advantage in the college admissions game, instead chose to corrupt and illegally manipulate the system for their benefit,” Lelling said.

“We’re not talking about donating a building so that a school’s more likely to take your son or daughter we’re talking about deception and fraud.”

Lelling said it “remains to be seen if we charge any students” and that the colleges themselves “are not considered co-conspirators”. Authorities said in many cases the teenagers were not aware of the fraud.

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+17 # DongiC 2019-03-12 17:01
My God, is nothing sacred anymore in America? Despite all their advantages of wealth and privilege, these well-to-do parents had to cheat openly to get their offspring into prestigious universities. Maybe, they are just following the example of our peerless leader who cheated his way all the way into the White House. And who still won't disclose his income tax returns. Seems like America is becoming corrupt from top to bottom.
+11 # johnescher 2019-03-12 18:55
Right, DongiC. And just to follow one avenue of the story, who were the complicit coaches at Wake Forest and Georgetown? In fact, the names of all such coaches at the eight institutions and anyplace else should come out into the public as soon as possible so that aspiring coaches can know where immediately to apply.
-9 # MikeAF48 2019-03-12 18:57
Your all lightweight's your easy we just don't care about your mess.
-1 # jwb110 2019-03-12 23:05
Can someone explain to me why this is a new thing!?!?!? This has been going on forever in the US. Do you think Donald Trump got into ANY school without money changing hands. Why is this NEWS NOW? Why now a finger pointing campaign because it has Show Biz angle.
I don't like that these things happen but I would be a fool to think that this has not gone on since time immemorial.
Jeez guys, grow up!!!
0 # lfeuille 2019-03-13 18:06
This scheme is new and illegal. All they other scemes have been legalized.
0 # ojkelly 2019-03-13 15:56
The crime is they cut the school out. The schools take money and give a wink and an acceptance . Paying a coach is stealing Old Alma Mater’s beans.