By Ethan Johnson
On March 12th, fifty people across six states were arrested in connection to a college bribing scandal that involved many famous celebrities. The scam allowed wealthy families to pay for their children to get into elite schools despite not having the qualifications necessary.
Families would spend between $100,000 and $6.5 million to get thier children higher scores on the ACT and SAT exams, photoshop pictures of their children as sport stars, and bribe college coaches to recruit their children.
United States attorney Andrew E. Lelling of Massachusetts stated “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. There can be no separate college admissions systems for the wealthy. And I’ll add that there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.”
Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were among the 33 parents arrested for their participation in the scam. Loughlin, the former Full House Star, and Huffman, a former Desperate Housewives star, were charged with paying to secure their daughters a position in colleges. Loughlin’s husband, Mossimo Giannulli, was also arrested for his involvement in the conspiracy.
Around a dozen coaches from various colleges across the United States were also arrested for connections with the scam. The coaches arrested came from Yale, Georgetown, Stanford University, the University of California Los Angeles, University of San Diego, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, and Wake Forest University.
The coaches would be bribed to flag applicants for recruiting despite not having any qualifications. This would guarantee the applicant a position in the school. Apparently the schools themselves were unaware, and the coaches took the bribes for their own personal use.
An example of the process involved a student who applied to Yale. In order to secure a position, the student's parents paid $1.2 million to Mr. Singer. It would appear that 58-year-old private college counseling veteran William “Rick” Signer was the ringleader of the operation. He offered parents a “side door” into colleges. He would arrange for his clients’ ACT and SAT tests to be taken and graded by proctors who had been paid to allow for extra time and change answers in order to up the student’s scores. The student was then described as the co-captain on a prominent club soccer team despite not playing soccer at all. Rudolph Meredith, the head women’s soccer coach at Yale was then paid at least $400,000 to recruit the student.
The process had parents pay Singer through a non-profit named the Key Worldwide Foundation. The foundation provided Singer with the money he used to pay off coaches and proctors. It also provided tax write-offs to the parents for donating to a non profit.
During Mr. Singer’s testimony in federal court he described his role in the process, “If I can make the comparison, there is a front door of getting in where a student just does it on their own, and then there’s a back door where people go to institutional advancement and make large donations, but they’re not guaranteed in. And then I created a side door that guaranteed families to get in. So that was what made it very attractive to so many families, is I created a guarantee.”
Singer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice. He will be sentenced in June and is expected to face a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Christopher Hunt, who runs a consulting service for applicants called College Essay Mentor, remarked on the situation, “This is an extreme, unsubtle and illegal example of the increasingly common practice of using money to get an edge in the race for a place in an elite university,”
All of the universities named during the investigation have made attempts to distance themselves from any criminal activity. USC has said that it had already fired senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel and water polo coach Jovan Vavic. UCLA has placed its head men’s soccer coach, Jorge Salcedo, on leave due to the allegations.
While many have been caught from this investigation, many think that there could still be more out there using similar means to secure their children a place in college. Singer’s attorney Donald H. Heller said, “I am sure there will be more things coming out. I would not be shocked if there weren’t others doing the same things.”