Following a lead that surfaced in a different investigation led the FBI to an individual who served as a broker of sorts for fostering admissions of students into colleges and universities where they otherwise most likely would not have been accepted. That person is William Rick Singer, one of many in the United States who offers this service, and he and several of his clients were indicted on federal charges.
Operation Varsity Blues, which began in May 2018 when FBI officials stumbled across a lead while working on a separate and unrelated investigation, involved the work of more than 300 special FBI agents.
The parents, which Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, described as “a catalogue of wealth and privilege,” include CEOs of public and private companies, real estate moguls, a co-chairman of a global law firm, a fashion designer and Hollywood celebrities.
All of them knowingly conspired with William Rick Singer, Lelling said, paying him anywhere from $100,000 to $6.5 million and disguising the payments as charitable donations. Most of them paid Singer, who funneled the money through a fake charity, between $200,000 to $400,000.
“We’re not talking about donating a building so that a school is more likely to take your son or daughter,” he said. “We’re talking about deception and fraud.”…
Usually, payments to colleges and universities are known as major gifts, but laundering this way is another layer of fraud.
In the cases of cheating on college entrance exams, Singer would counsel parents to take their children to therapists who could provide a letter of recommendation that they needed additional or unlimited testing time due to a disability. Singer would then arrange for the students to take the SAT or ACT alone with a proctor that he’d pay $15,000 to $75,000 to either take the test for them or change answers after the students had finished.
The headlines produced by this scandal included some household names.
In one instance, actress Felicity Huffman, star of the television show “Desperate Housewives,” paid $15,000 for her daughter’s answers on the SAT to be corrected after she took the exam….
The schools implicated include Georgetown University, Stanford University, University of California Los Angeles, the University of San Diego, University of Southern California, University of Texas, Wake Forest and Yale – though none of them are accused of any wrongdoing, with the exception of an admissions officer at USC.
This, apparently, is just the beginning and more charges will be filed against additional people. In the meantime, Mr. Singer intends to plead guilty to the charges, and Ms. Huffman is out of jail on a $250,000 bond.