The Tip, The Yale Coach And The Wire: How The College Admissions Scam Unraveled (#GotBitcoin?)
The investigation snared families at the highest economic echelons accused of cheating, lies and bribery. The Tip, The Yale Coach And The Wire: How The College Admissions Scam Unraveled
Federal authorities were pursuing a securities fraud case last spring when a person involved, a financial executive hoping for leniency, said he had information of great interest on another matter, according to people familiar with the investigation.
The executive told investigators that the head women’s soccer coach at Yale University had sought a bribe in return for getting his daughter admitted to the Ivy League school, a person familiar with the investigation said.
Authorities zeroed on the coach who began cooperating in what federal investigators said was the biggest college-admissions fraud ever prosecuted.
From 2011 to 2018, prosecutors say, parents paid a total of $25 million to William Singer, a college-admissions consultant, to bribe coaches and administrators to designate their children as top recruits in such sports as football, water polo, soccer, track and volleyball at universities including the University of Southern California, Georgetown and Wake Forest. Some parents also allegedly paid Mr. Singer as much as $75,000 for test-cheating services.
Authorities have charged 33 parents who allegedly paid for illegal services to get their children into colleges; three people who were allegedly paid to fraudulently raise scores on SAT and ACT college-entrance exams, as well as nine college coaches and five others.
A day after charges were unveiled, the new details revealed more about the origins and breadth of an investigation that snared families at the highest economic echelons, accused of pushing their way ahead of other college applicants with lies, bribes and cheating.
The case immediately became a national conversation, touching on class, merit and a hint of comeuppance. Most of the accused parents didn’t reveal to the children the lengths they would go to land a seat at a big-name university.
Some of the most brazen deceptions weren’t easy to hide. A school counselor, for instance, wanted to know why one student was being recruited by a college water polo team when their high school didn’t even offer the sport.
Prosecutors said the plot attracted parents from affluent communities in California: Del Mar, Newport Beach, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Atherton, Mill Valley and Palo Alto; and in the east, Greenwich, Conn., and New York City. The families spanned Silicon Valley to Hollywood to Wall Street.
“What we do is help the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school.” Mr. Singer told parent Gordon Caplan last June in a recorded call transcribed in a government affidavit released in Boston this week. “They want guarantees. They want this thing done.”
The response from Mr. Caplan, co-chairman of New York law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, echoed other calls with parents, according to the affidavit transcripts: “To be honest, it feels a little weird. But…What do I need to do?”
Mr. Caplan declined to comment. Other parents named in court documents declined to comment, didn’t respond to requests for comment or couldn’t be reached.
The initial tip led investigators to Rudy Meredith, the head coach of women’s soccer at Yale. He had worked with Mr. Singer in January 2018 to get the daughter of a California family into Yale by pretending she was a soccer player, according to prosecutors. The family paid Mr. Singer $1.2 million, according to the affidavit; Mr. Meredith’s share was $400,000. The family wasn’t identified. Mr. Meredith didn’t respond to requests for comment.
In April, Mr. Meredith met with the tipster parent, who was wearing a wire, at a hotel room in Boston, the person familiar with the matter said. During that meeting, Mr. Meredith offered a place at Yale for the parent’s daughter in exchange for $450,000, according to the person and court documents.
Afterward, Mr. Meredith began cooperating, authorities said.
The tipster parent has not been charged in the college case.
The multiagency federal investigation, named Operation Varsity Blues, received court approval to tap Mr. Singer’s phone in June. Investigators secretly recorded conversations between Mr. Singer and at least 16 client families over the next few months.
Mr. Singer allegedly offered two services: Fraudulently boost children’s entrance-exam scores, or pay to have them falsely identified as a recruited athlete, a more expensive but guaranteed path.
Defendants recorded on calls include actress Felicity Huffman, former Pacific Investment Management Co. CEO Douglas Hodge, vintner Agustin Huneeus Jr. and private-equity investor John Wilson.
Federal agents alerted Mr. Singer that he was under surveillance in September. He learned of the federal and grand jury investigation into his operation, according to prosecutors, and began cooperating.
“They had me wired to go into some folks’ homes, plus my calls were being taped,” Mr. Singer said in court Tuesday. At first, Mr. Singer tipped off six families of the investigation, prosecutors said. In one case, according to his court testimony, he arrived early to a student’s home and told the father that he was being recorded and urged him to “not say anything that would be harmful to you guys.”
Mr. Singer said in court, “I am totally wrong, and I did that kind of situation on multiple occasions to multiple families.”
At the request of investigators, Mr. Singer reached out to past clients, including former casino executive Gamal Abdelaziz and real estate developer Robert Flaxman. He recounted on the recorded calls their past transactions, explaining that his charity was being audited.
Mr. Singer had long assured worried clients that hundreds of other families had taken advantage of his clandestine services. Yet, as more families engaged Mr. Singer’s Edge College & Career Network, LLC, the secret seemed harder and harder to keep.
In late 2017, a guidance counselor at the Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, a suburb of Los Angeles, wanted to know why USC was recruiting Matteo Sloane as a water polo player. The high school didn’t even have a team.
The boy’s father, Devin Sloane, founder and chief executive of aquaTECTURE, a Los Angeles-based company that invests in water-treatment systems, had hired Mr. Singer to bribe a USC official to identify Matteo as an athletic recruit, the affidavit said.
One of the campus officials accused of working with Mr. Singer, Donna Heinel, then the senior associate athletic director at USC, sent an email to the university’s admissions director to explain the discrepancy, according to the affidavit. “He plays at LA Water Polo Club during the year and travels international during the summer with the youth junior team in Italy,” she wrote on April 11. “I don’t know if the people at [his high school] are unaware.”
She added, “He is small but he has a long torso but short strong legs plus he is fast which helps him win the draws to start play after goals are scored.”
USC’s admissions director, not named in court papers, agreed to pass that information along. “They seemed unusually skeptical,” the admissions official said of the Buckley School. A spokeswoman for Buckley didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ms. Heinel warned Mr. Singer in a voice mail that same day: “I just don’t want anybody going into” the high schools, “You know, yelling at counselors. That’ll shut everything—that’ll shut everything down,” according to the affidavit.
In July, the scheme was nearly exposed by a curious USC adviser.
Thomas Kimmel, the son of defendant Elisabeth Kimmel, expressed confusion when he was asked about being a track athlete. Mr. Kimmel allegedly didn’t know it, according to the affidavit, but he had been admitted to USC last year after his mother, who owns a media company, used Mr. Singer to bribe Ms. Heinel. Thomas, according to his paperwork, was a pole vaulter.
Mr. Singer and his associates had crafted a profile of the boy as an elite athlete that included a photo of an actual vaulter. The boy’s high school, the Bishop’s School in La Jolla, Calif., had no record of his track-and-field feats, prosecutors said.
Ms. Kimmel described what happened to Mr. Singer, a phone call recorded by authorities: “So she goes, ‘It has it down that you’re a track athlete.’ And he said, ‘Well I’m not.’ She goes, ‘Oh, okay, well I have to look into that.’”
Mr. Singer reassured the mother that if the adviser poked around more, she would end up speaking with Ms. Heinel, who has since been charged with conspiracy.
Mr. Singer relied on referrals from a circle of affluent parents. He said in recorded calls last year that he had helped 760 students in the previous school year get into college through what he called the “side door.”
Greg Abbott, CEO of International Dispensing Corp. , said on Tuesday that he and his wife had heard about Mr. Singer through a network of New York City mothers: “They all say he’s the best.”
One parent, William McGlashan Jr., wanted to help his son into the USC, and he didn’t want the boy to know how, according to the government affidavit unsealed in Boston this week.
In a conversation recorded by authorities, Mr. McGlashan was quoted a fee of $250,000 by Mr. Singer, who started his company, Edge College & Career Network.
“I would do that in a heartbeat,” said Mr. McGlashan, of Mill Valley, Calif., the managing partner of private-equity firm TPG Growth. He had already paid Mr. Singer $50,000 for an expert to surreptitiously correct his son’s college-entrance exam, according to government allegations. He would pay even more to have his son photoshopped into a star kicker for the USC football team.
Late last summer, Mr. McGlashan sent Mr. Singer sports photos of his son for an admissions package, intended to cast the teen as a recruit to the football team.The boy’s school, Marin Academy in Northern California, had no football team. But, Mr. McGlashan said, “He does have really strong legs…Pretty funny. The way the world works these days is unbelievable.”
Mr. McGlashan was put on administrative leave Tuesday by TPG.
Mr. Huneeus, another defendant, spoke about Mr. Singer’s services with Mr. McGlashan, whose son attended the same school as Mr. Huneeus’s daughter, Agustina. A spokesman for the school, Marin Academy, said there’s no indication anyone who works at the school knew of the alleged scam.
In a recorded call with Mr. Singer, Mr. McGlashan lamented that Mr. Huneeus was “not discreet at all.”
Mr. Huneeus allegedly paid Mr. Singer $50,000 to have someone sit with his daughter and correct answers while she took the SAT at a Los Angeles-area test center in March.
Mr. Huneeus also allegedly bribed Ms. Heinel and USC’s water polo coach to secure a spot for his daughter as a recruited player.
Ms. Huffman, the actress, had allegedly paid $15,000 for Mr. Singer’s services to help her older daughter score well on a college entrance exam and was in talks with him for help with her second daughter. In a call recorded in December, her husband—actor William H. Macy, who hasn’t been charged—said the girl was interested in Georgetown, among other colleges.
In February while making arrangements for Ms. Huffman’s daughter to take the test in March, Mr. Singer said for the girl to get into Georgetown, she would have to score in the 1400-plus range.
Ms. Huffman told Mr. Singer that her daughter had scored around a 1200 in a practice SAT test with a tutor.
“I just didn’t know if it’d be odd for [the tutor] if we go, ‘Oh, she did this in— in March 9th, but she did so much better in May,’” Ms. Huffman said.
Mr. Singer said he didn’t think the tutor would notice. The parents decided not to pay for help cheating on the entrance exam for the younger child, prosecutors said.
Mr. Singer pleaded guilty to four charges Tuesday, including racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and obstruction of justice. John Vandemoer, the former head sailing coach at Stanford, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering.
The investigation, which also involved the Internal Revenue Service, is ongoing and could implicate more coaches and parents. The IRS called the operation a sweeping financial crime with Mr. Singer and others conspiring to not only make and receive bribes but to funnel the funds through a bogus charity to dodge taxes.
The Yale Dad Who Set Off the College-Admissions Scandal
Morrie Tobin was implicated in separate case in Boston when he mentioned Yale coach bribe.
The original tipster who led federal authorities to the biggest college-admissions scam they’ve ever prosecuted was Morrie Tobin, a Los Angeles resident who was being investigated in a securities fraud case, according to a person familiar with the investigation.
Mr. Tobin was being questioned in an alleged pump-and-dump investment scheme—in which people conspire to inflate the price of a stock so they can sell it at a profit—when he offered a tip to federal authorities in an effort to obtain leniency, according to people familiar with the matter.
The financial executive, who attended Yale University, told investigators that the head women’s soccer coach at Yale had sought a bribe in return for getting his daughter into the Ivy League school, a person familiar with the investigation said.
That tip led investigators to unravel a wide-ranging scheme in which dozens of wealthy parents allegedly paid a college consultant to facilitate cheating on entrance exams and falsifying athletic profiles. It also involved allegedly bribing coaches at schools including the University of Southern California, Georgetown University and Stanford University to take their kids on as recruited athletes, a near guaranteed way of being accepted.
Mr. Tobin wasn’t charged in relation to the alleged college-admissions scheme. He is awaiting sentencing in the securities fraud case in which he signed a plea agreement in November.
TPG’s McGlashan Stripped of Duties in Wake of College-Admission Scandal
Several private-equity and venture-capital figures were charged with trying to bribe their children’s way into college.
Private-equity firm TPG has put William McGlashan Jr., founder of its growth investment unit and head of the firm’s impact investment team, on indefinite administrative leave following allegations he participated in a college admissions cheating scandal.
Mr. McGlashan is among dozens of defendants, including several with ties to the private-equity and venture-capital industry, named in a federal suit unveiled Tuesday. He is accused of channeling payments through a college-consulting company to help his son gain admission to the University of Southern California.
TPG’s co-Chief Executive Jim Coulter will serve as interim managing partner of TPG Growth and the Rise Fund, according to a statement from the firm. Mr. Coulter will lead all investment work for both going forward, in partnership with the organization’s executive team, the statement said.
In documents unveiled Tuesday, government prosecutors describe a wide-ranging scheme in which parents used a private college-counseling service to funnel bribes to admissions-test administrators and, some cases, college coaches and officials to get their children admitted to universities, including the University of Southern California, Stanford University and Yale University.
The college counselors who participated in the scheme promised admission to colleges through what they termed the “side door,” in exchange for payments disguised as charitable donations. The 32 defendants face criminal charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud.
Other defendants have pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges, including three people who helped lead the scheme and cooperated with the investigation and aren’t named in the suit.
Prosecutors claim that in 2017, Mr. McGlashan paid $50,000 get his son’s college-entrance exam answers corrected after the test was over. He also allegedly agreed to pay $250,000 to get his son admitted to USC using a fake athletic profile.
TPG Growth, founded in 2007, is best known for its savvy early bets on technology startups such as Airbnb Inc. and Spotify AB. It closed its most recent fund, TPG Growth IV LP, with $3.7 billion in 2017.
That same year, Mr. McGlashan also co-founded the approximately $2 billion Rise Fund alongside Irish rock star Bono and former eBay Inc. President Jeff Skoll, among others. The fund is dedicated to environmental, social and governance investing, which aims to back companies that have strong ethical and social impacts.
TPG is currently raising its second Rise Fund, seeking $3.5 billion, WSJ Pro Private Equity reported in December.
Other defendants with ties to the alternatives industry named in the suit include Gordon Caplan, co-chairman of law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP and a partner in the firm’s private-equity practice; Robert Zangrillo, founder, chairman and CEO of venture firm Dragon Global; John Wilson, president and CEO of private-equity and real-estate firm Hyannis Port Capital; and Manuel Henriquez, founder, chairman and CEO of venture-focused business development company Hercules Capital.
As of press time, none of the defendants were immediately available for comment.
The charges bring specific criminal and regulatory concerns for those in the financial-services industry, said John Coffee Jr., a Columbia University law professor who has written extensively on regulation and litigation.
Beyond the legal penalties and fees and the possibility of asset forfeiture, the defendants could lose their brokerage licenses if convicted, he said. That could create difficulties for raising money.
Mr. Coffee said the defendants will likely try to negotiate agreements that allow them to avoid or defer being prosecuted in exchange for fulfilling certain requirements, in order to minimize these dangers.
“There are collateral consequences to a criminal conviction regardless of whether you go to prison,” he said.
Lori Loughlin Fired From All Hallmark Projects Over College Cheating Scandal
Lori Loughlin‘s future (or lack thereof) with Hallmark has been decided. Crown Media will no longer be working with the actress — who is currently a series regular on the popular period drama When Calls the Heart, among other projects.
“We are saddened by the recent news surrounding the college admissions allegations,” reads a statement obtained by TVLine. “We are no longer working with Lori Loughlin and have stopped development of all productions that air on the Crown Media Family Network channels involving Lori Loughlin including Garage Sale Mysteries, an independent third party production.”
Some background: Loughlin turned herself over to authorities on March 13 after being indicted for allegedly taking part in a large scheme involving parents who paid bribes of up to $6 million to get their kids into elite colleges, including Harvard and Yale. Loughlin, her husband Mossimo Giannulli and dozens of other parents — including Desperate Housewives alumna Felicity Huffman — allegedly bribed college entrance-exam administrators to allow cheating on the tests and university athletic coaches to designate school applicants as athletic recruits, regardless of their athletic ability or experience playing a sport.
Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly paid a total of $500,000 so that their two daughters would be designated as recruits to the University of Southern California’s crew team, though neither girl participated in the sport. Loughlin was released from custody on $1 million bail, with a judge ruling that she could travel for work as long as she informs the court where she’s going and how long she’ll be away. She’s currently in the midst of making the Hallmark Channel’s latest Garage Sale Mystery movie, which is being filmed in Vancouver.
Fans of Loughlin’s work with Hallmark have been extremely vocal since news of her alleged involvement in the bribery scandal became public. Viewers have since flooded Hallmark’s social media channels, calling for her firing. “@LoriLoughlin shows or movies will no longer be played in my home,” wrote one angry fan on Instagram. “Should have hired her children a tutor and taught them better study habits.” Another added, “Personally, I don’t want to see her ever on Hallmark Channel again and it would be extremely disappointing to see Crown Media ignore her gross dishonesty.”
In addition to her work on these Hallmark projects, Loughlin also recurs on Netflix’s Fuller House, which was recently renewed for a fifth and final season. TVLine has reached out to Warner Bros. TV for comment about Loughlin’s future (or lack thereof) on the family sitcom.
Coaches, Administrators Allegedly Involved in College Admissions Cheating Scheme Appear in Court
Prosecutors say they took millions in payments and bribes to help clients land their children at elite colleges.
Prominent college coaches and defendants who allegedly arranged for fraudulently boosted ACT or SAT scores began to appear in federal court here Monday as part of the largest college-admissions scandal ever prosecuted by the Justice Department.
The appearances in U.S. District Court in Boston kick off two weeks of visits by high-profile parents, college coaches and others the federal government says were involved in the scheme.
Federal prosecutors on March 12 charged 50 people nationwide in “Operation Varsity Blues.” Prosecutors said participants engaged in a conspiracy that allegedly involved cheating on entrance exams and bribing coaches to get students admitted to competitive schools.
All of those appearing in court Monday were charged with racketeering conspiracy including several of the coaches, two admissions test administrators, a Houston sports promoter and business associates of William “Rick” Singer, the Newport Beach, Calif., college counselor, who led the scheme and pleaded guilty to charges earlier this month.
“This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud,” U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said in announcing the charges earlier this month.
The bribery scheme allegedly landed at least 40 students at schools where they were designated as recruited athletes, often without actually having any skills in the sport.
Some coaches allegedly took the money in personal checks, while others had the funds directed to their athletic programs or private clinics or teams they ran. The students weren’t expected to actually join the teams. Since the charges were announced earlier this month, most of the coaches then still at colleges have been fired or put on leave.
Mr. Singer, who became a cooperating witness last fall, pleaded guilty two weeks ago to four charges, including racketeering conspiracy, money laundering-conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and obstruction of justice. He is scheduled to be sentenced in June.
Mr. Singer allegedly directed upward of $6 million to the coaches since 2012, including more than $2.7 million to then Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst and $1.3 million to USC accounts controlled by Donna Heinel, then the senior associate athletic director at the University of Southern California.
A lawyer for Mr. Ernst didn’t respond to requests for comment. Nina Marino, an attorney for Ms. Heinel, said in a statement over the weekend: “These charges come as a complete shock. Anyone who knows Donna Heinel knows she is a woman of integrity and ethics with a strong moral compass. We look forward to reviewing the government’s evidence and fully restoring Donna’s reputation in the college athletic community.”
Monday’s court date also highlighted the alleged testing scheme. According to authorities, parents paid Mr. Singer between $15,000 and $75,000 to have testing whiz Mark Riddell either take the SAT or ACT for the teens or correct their answers after.
Mr. Riddell, a cooperating witness to the government’s case, has agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud and a money-related charge.
Authorities say Mr. Singer bribed Lisa “Niki” Williams and Igor Dvorskiy, a Houston teaching assistant and a West Hollywood, Calif., school director who both also worked as test administrators for the ACT and the College Board, to look the other way while Mr. Riddell adjusted test answers.
Others implicated in the scheme include Wake Forest University women’s volleyball coach William Ferguson, who has been accused of accepting a bribe to gain admission for one of Mr. Singer’s clients. Mr. Ferguson’s attorney, Shaun Clarke, told a crowd outside the courthouse Monday that his client isn’t guilty and will fight to clear his name.
“I can’t speak to what happened at any other university but not at Wake Forest,” said Mr. Clarke.
Also expected in court was Martin Fox, the Houston sports promoter who prosecutors say connected Mr. Singer to Ms. Williams, University of Texas at Austin tennis coach Michael Center and University of San Diego basketball coach Lamont Smith.
“We are confident he doesn’t belong in this indictment,” his lawyer David Gerger, of Gerger Khalil & Hennessy LLP, said over the weekend.
Plea Talks Advance In College Scandal Ahead of Court Date
Hollywood actresses and other high-profile defendants are scheduled for hearings Wednesday.
A father who allegedly bought water polo gear on Amazon.com to falsely portray his son as a competitive player and ease the boy’s admission into the University of Southern California is in plea discussions for his role in the nationwide college-admissions scandal.
A late Tuesday court filing by attorneys for Devin Sloane, a Los Angeles businessman, illustrates the complex, fast-moving legal case that has spawned criminal charges against 33 parents allegedly involved in the scheme. Some of the parents were discussing possible guilty pleas with prosecutors, people familiar with the matter have said.
“Mr. Sloane and the Government are currently in discussions that are calculated to resolve this matter without a trial and reasonably expect that will occur,” his lawyers said in a court filing late Tuesday, asking that Mr. Sloane not be required to appear in federal court here Wednesday.
Federal authorities declined to comment on whether they were in discussions with Mr. Sloane, but Tuesday’s filing said the government was aware of the request to change the court date and “takes no position” on the request. Mr. Sloane’s lawyer didn’t reply to requests for comment.
The apparent progress in plea talks comes on the eve of preliminary court hearings for more than a dozen parents including Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
The government says the parents paid Newport Beach, Calif., college-admissions coach William “Rick” Singer $25 million to arrange for cheating in college-entrance tests or bribe coaches to designate applicants as recruited athletes to nearly guarantee their admission to selective schools. Mr. Singer pleaded guilty to four charges on March 12, the day the U.S. District Attorney’s office in Massachusetts announced “Operation Varsity Blues.”
Other parents on Wednesday’s court docket include fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, Ms. Loughlin’s husband, corporate executives and a top private-equity lawyer.
Beverly Hills trend guru Jane Buckingham, also scheduled to appear Wednesday, asked in a court filing earlier this week to move her date, citing a scheduling conflict for an attorney and stating that she and the government “are currently considering a resolution to this matter that would not require a hearing before the Court.”
It was reported Friday that some of plea deals may include prison time.
Parents set to appear Wednesday before federal Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelly all face a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Two of them, a doctor and his wife, from Palo Alto, Calif., also have been indicted on a money-laundering conspiracy charge.
The Journal reported that prosecutors could add money-laundering conspiracy charges for some of the other parents as soon as this week.
Mr. Sloane, the founder of a California company that invests in water-treatment systems and technology, was among several parents who worked with Mr. Singer to craft bogus athletic profiles for their children, according to federal authorities. The teens weren’t expected to play the sport in college—but being tapped as a recruit made admission all but certain.
Mr. Sloane allegedly paid $250,000 for the service, including $200,000 to Mr. Singer’s fraudulent charity and $50,000 to a USC account controlled by the athletics administrator.
The waterfront federal court area in Boston is expected to resemble a red carpet event Wednesday afternoon, with a horde of paparazzi descending to catch glimpses of the defendants prosecutors called a “catalog of wealth,” flanked by their publicists and lawyers.
Sixteen Parents Indicted In College Admissions Scandal
Parents, including actress Lori Loughlin, now face charge of money-laundering conspiracy.
A federal grand jury in Boston indicted 16 parents allegedly involved in the college-admissions cheating scheme on two felony counts, a day after the U.S. Attorney’s Office said 13 others would plead guilty to a single charge.
Nearly all the 33 parents charged so far initially faced one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud. Two of the parents were later indicted on that and a charge of money-laundering conspiracy.
The parents indicted Tuesday now face the money-laundering conspiracy charge as well. Prosecutors say they funneled payments through the sham charity run by the scheme’s alleged mastermind, in some cases even taking tax write-offs on the “donations.”
The indicted parents include actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, as well as former Pacific Investment Management Co. CEO Douglas Hodge, and others in the finance and real estate industries.
It was reported late last month that other parents could be indicted, and could face multiple charges if they didn’t plead before the indictments came down.
Fifty people, including parents, test proctors and college coaches were charged last month in “Operation Varsity Blues,” which prosecutors say is the largest college-admissions fraud case they have ever pursued.
The parents allegedly paid Newport Beach, Calif., college consultant William “Rick” Singer tens of thousands of dollars each to fraudulently boost their children’s SAT or ACT scores. Some also allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe college coaches to designate their children as recruited athletes, all but guaranteeing admission to colleges including Yale University, University of Southern California, Georgetown University and others.
Many of the payments were made through Key Worldwide Foundation, Mr. Singer’s nonprofit, prosecutors say.
Actress Felicity Huffman and 10 other parents—as well as one coach—agreed Monday to plead guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud. Two additional parents agreed to become cooperating witnesses, with the wife pleading guilty to that charge and the husband also pleading guilty to money laundering and tax-fraud conspiracy.
While many have hashed out plea agreements with federal authorities, a few parents indicated in court appearances, filings or public statements that they plan to contest the charges.
“We maintain it is a weak case,” Brian Kelly, the lawyer for former casino executive and defendant Gamal Abdelaziz, said in court late last month. Mr. Kelly said the government’s case hinges on a “deeply compromised” witness, Mr. Singer.
“This is a winnable case for my client, and he intends to fight it and win,” said Mr. Kelly, one of several prominent former federal prosecutors who are now defense lawyers representing the parents.
In addition to Mr. Abdelaziz, Ms. Loughlin, Mr. Giannulli and Mr. Hodge, the list of parents indicted Tuesday includes: Diane Blake and Todd Blake; I-Hsin “Joey” Chen; former Hercules Capital CEO Manuel Henriquez and his wife, Elizabeth Henriquez; Michelle Janavs; Elisabeth Kimmel; founder of private-equity fund TPG Growth William McGlashan Jr.; Marci Palatella; John Wilson; Homayoun Zadeh; and Robert Zangrillo.
According to prosecutors, Ms. Loughlin and Mr. Giannulli agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in return for having their two daughters, including social-media celebrity Olivia Jade Giannulli, identified as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team “despite the fact that they didn’t participate in crew.” The teens were admitted.
Mr. Giannulli allegedly posed his daughters for photographs on stationary rowing machines to help make the case that they were athletes. Prosecutors say other parents also helped Mr. Singer manufacture bogus athletic profiles, even buying equipment for staged pictures.
The charges filed Tuesday each carry a maximum 20 years in prison as well as years of supervised release and hefty fines. Prosecutors recommended that the parents who said Monday that they would plead guilty face sentences ranging from less than six months to a few years, according to the plea filings.
An arraignment date hasn’t been scheduled.
The parents indicted Tuesday could still plead guilty in coming weeks or months, but some may maintain their innocence and proceed to trial.
John Hueston, an attorney for Mr. McGlashan, said Tuesday that the case against his client “is deeply flawed and ignores important exculpatory facts,” adding, “We look forward to presenting his side of the story.”
Students, Graduates May Be Next Targets of College-Admissions Scandal Investigation
Federal authorities send some young adults ‘target letters’ after court papers indicate some knew about their parents’ alleged activities or were involved.
Federal prosecutors have sent letters to some college students or graduates whose parents have been implicated in the nationwide admissions bribery and fraud scandal, informing them that they may also be targets in the probe, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Prosecutors sent the letters to young adults believed to have known about the schemes that aimed to help get them into college, that person said. Such so-called target letters don’t mean the students or graduates who received them will face charges. However, they could prompt the recipients to speak to authorities and push parents to plead in the hopes of protecting their children from additional prosecution, said others knowledgeable about the case.
Not all the children who allegedly benefited from the scheme have received target letters, some of those people said.
Though federal authorities have said many of the students who allegedly benefited from the scheme by landing spots at top colleges didn’t know about their parents’ activities, court papers suggest at least some did. Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said when the charges in “Operation Varsity Blues” were announced a month ago that the investigation was ongoing and students remained part of that probe.
“There was a pretty wide range of how parents tried to play this,” Mr. Lelling said at the time, adding that in one case a defendant and his daughter were allegedly on a conference call with the ringleader of the cheating scam.
In another example, the older daughter of one pair of defendants, Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez, allegedly received a score of 1900 out of a possible 2400 on the October 2015 test, up by 320 points from the best mark she had received previously. Mark Riddell, the test-taking whiz who mastermind William “Rick” Singer paid to fix wrong answers for students, told authorities he “gloated” with the girl and her mother about getting away with cheating on the test, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigations affidavit.
Messrs. Singer and Riddell have pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme and are cooperating with authorities. Attorneys for Mr. and Ms. Henriquez didn’t respond to a request for comment Saturday about whether their older daughter had received a target letter. The daughter couldn’t be reached.
Other children of the defendants posed for photos showing their involvement in various sports that they didn’t play competitively, like water polo and crew, or were copied on emails detailing the scheme to bribe college coaches.
Prosecutors have already charged 50 people, including 33 parents, with participating in an alleged $25 million conspiracy to get students into selective colleges by arranging for cheating on the SAT or ACT or bribing coaches to designate kids as athletic recruits.
Thirteen parents have agreed to plead guilty, with another in talks to do so, according to court filings, while 19 others have been indicted on conspiracy charges related to money laundering and mail or wire fraud.
Meanwhile, the University of California, Los Angeles, where a soccer coach has been charged with allegedly taking a bribe in exchange for designating a child of one of Mr. Singer’s clients as a recruited athlete, said late Saturday that it previously came across Mr. Singer in a separate 2014 investigation of potentially improper activity in student-athlete admissions. The school said it uncovered a possible violation of its policy prohibiting admissions “motivated by concern for financial, political or other such benefit to the University,” and launched a probe in response.
In one case, UCLA granted provisional admission to, and then reversed the offer for, a prospective women’s water polo player. Mr. Singer was later identified as an outside college consultant for the young woman’s family and was interviewed in the investigation, UCLA said. He allegedly denied telling the girl’s family that admission could be won in exchange for a significant donation. UCLA said two coaches were found responsible for violating policy. A lawyer for Mr. Singer didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
UCLA said that immediately after the investigation, it changed admissions rules including when donations can be accepted from families of prospective student-athletes.
The school said Saturday that “as part of its months-long and ongoing cooperation” with the Justice Department, it shared information about the 2014 investigation with federal authorities.
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