The year-long FBI investigation which they code-named Operation Varsity Blues, uncovered a network of wealthy parents who paid anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools such as Georgetown University, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of San Diego, USC, University of Texas, Wake Forest, and Yale. Among the parents charged were actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. A list of the others charged including 33 parents and 13 coaches and associates of Singer’s businesses, and two SAT and ACT test administrators appear at the bottom of this post.
Holy Cow! So this must be why I never got into Yale (well that, mediocre grades. lack of a scholarship, and limited athletic talent).
The parents paid their cash to William Singer (who is cooperating and pleading guilty) the founder of the Edge College & Career Network. who reaped approximately $25 million by getting the kids into the elite schools. In turn, Singer paid people to take tests for the children (bribing test administrators to allow it to happen) or bribing college coaches and administrators to identify the applicants as athletes even if they never played the sport.
So that’s why I never got into Yale, my parents only offered a serving of my Mom’s best brisket, a pound of her chopped liver, and a lokshen kugel (noodle pudding).
FBI special agent says 300 FBI, IRS agents participated in arrests in alleged college cheating scam, named “Operation Varsity Blues”; 38 individuals have been taken into custody so far. https://t.co/eg24f7pl1z pic.twitter.com/iL4lZ6t5CC
— ABC News (@ABC) March 12, 2019
According to Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts and the guy with a beard in the tweet above:
Singer allegedly bribed the coaches, who “agreed to pretend that certain applicants were recruited competitive athletes when, in fact, the applicants were not.”
Lelling said the coaches allegedly “knew the students’ athletic credentials had been fabricated.”
He said Singer allegedly worked with the parents to “fabricate profiles for their kids, including fake athletic credential and honors, or fake participation in elite club teams.”
Singer allegedly even had parents stage photos or Photoshopped pictures of their children participating in sports.
Can you imagine that? I was really on my High School Varsity Football team and that didn’t help me at all. I even got into parts of two games during my HS Football career. I know the pain of not getting a slot at an elite school. That Singer and the rich parents caused pain to the kids who should have been admitted to those schools.
As a parent of two kids with special needs, this version of the scandal is the worst,
According to the charging documents, Singer facilitated cheating on the SAT and ACT exams for his clients by instructing them to seek extended time for their children on college entrance exams, which included having the children purport to have learning disabilities in order to obtain the required medical documentation. Once the extended time was granted, Singer allegedly instructed the clients to change the location of the exams to one of two test centers: a public high school in Houston, Texas, or a private college preparatory school in West Hollywood, Calif. At those test centers, Singer had established relationships with test administrators Niki Williams and Igor Dvorskiy, respectively, who accepted bribes of as much as $10,000 per test in order to facilitate the cheating scheme. Specifically, Williams and Dvorskiy allowed a third individual, typically Riddell, to take the exams in place of the students, to give the students the correct answers during the exams, or to correct the students’ answers after they completed the exams. Singer typically paid Ridell $10,000 for each student’s test. Singer’s clients paid him between $15,000 and $75,000 per test, with the payments structured as purported donations to the KWF charity. In many instances, the students taking the exams were unaware that their parents had arranged for the cheating.
A parent of children with special needs has to fight like all hell to get the necessary special arrangements for their children. Be it a quiet testing room with fewer kids, extended time, use of a computer to type answers instead of writing them, just to name a few. The first answer is usually no, and parents have to fight to make that no a yes. Singer’s scandal makes it harder for those parents to prove that their kids need adjustments.
A third element of the scam as outlined by the DOJ covering up the bribes and tax fraud. Beginning around 2013, Singer allegedly agreed with certain clients to disguise bribe payments as charitable contributions to Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF) a fake charity. It not only allowed the parents to hide the bribes but it enabling clients to deduct the bribes from their federal income taxes as a charitable donation. KWF issued those parents a donation letter which said in part “Your generosity will allow us to move forward with our plans to provide educational and self-enrichment programs to disadvantaged youth,” and falsely indicated that “no good or services were exchanged” for the donations. Many clients then filed personal tax returns that falsely reported the payment to the KWF as charitable donations.
During the press conference where he announced the arrest, Andrew Lelling said the investigation was not over. In other words, the list of the fifty people arrested (below) might be growing, and that’s a good thing. Because, as Lelling said “There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy and, I’ll add, there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.
Now please read the list of people charged in the scam while I write a nasty letter to Yale.
According to the DOJ people charged so far include
- 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. He is scheduled to plead guilty in Boston before U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel on March 12, 2019, at 2:30 p.m.;
- 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;
- Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, 51, of Madison, Conn., the former head women’s soccer coach at Yale University, was charged in an Information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services wire fraud as well as honest services wire fraud;
- John Vandemoer, 41, of Stanford, Calif., the former sailing coach at Stanford University, was charged in an Information with racketeering conspiracy and is expected to plead guilty in Boston before U.S. District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel on March 12, 2019, at 3:00 p.m.;
- David Sidoo, 59, of Vancouver, Canada, was charged in an indictment with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Sidoo was arrested on Friday, March 8th in San Jose, Calif., and appeared in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California yesterday. A date for his initial appearance in federal court in Boston has not yet been scheduled.
The following defendants were charged in an indictment 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;
- Steven Masera, 69, of Folsom, Calif., accountant and financial officer for the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation;
- Jorge Salcedo, 46, of Los Angeles, Calif., former head coach of men’s soccer at the University of California at Los Angeles;
- Mikaela Sanford, 32, of Folsom, Calif., employee of the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation;
- Jovan Vavic, 57, of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., former water polo coach at the University of Southern California; and
- Niki Williams, 44, of Houston, Texas, assistant teacher at a Houston high school and test administrator for the College Board and ACT.
The following defendant was charged in a criminal complaint 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 following defendants 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;
- Amy Colburn, 59, of Palo Alto, Calif.;
- Gregory Colburn, 61, of Palo Alto, Calif.;
- Robert Flaxman, 62, of Laguna Beach, Calif., founder and CEO of real estate development firm;
- Mossimo Giannulli, 55, of Los Angeles, Calif., fashion designer;
- Elizabeth Henriquez, 56, of Atherton, Calif.;
- Manuel Henriquez, 55, of Atherton, Calif., founder, chairman and CEO of a publicly traded specialty finance company;
- Douglas Hodge, 61, of Laguna Beach, Calif., former CEO of investment management company;
- Felicity Huffman, 56, of Los Angeles, Calif., an actress;
- Agustin Huneeus Jr., 53, of San Francisco, Calif., owner of wine vineyards;
- Bruce Isackson, 61, of Hillsborough, Calif., president of a real estate development firm;
- Davina Isackson, 55, of Hillsborough, Calif.;
- Michelle Janavs, 48, of Newport Coast, Calif., former executive of a large food manufacturer;
- Elisabeth Kimmel, 54, of Las Vegas, Nev., owner and president of a media company;
- Marjorie Klapper, 50, of Menlo Park, Calif., co-owner of jewelry business;
- Lori Loughlin, 54, of Los Angeles, Calif., an actress;
- Toby MacFarlane, 56, of Del Mar, Calif., former senior executive at a title insurance company;
- William McGlashan Jr., 55, of Mill Valley, Calif., senior executive at a global equity firm;
- Marci Palatella, 63, of Healdsburg, Calif., CEO of a liquor distribution company;
- Peter Jan Sartorio, 53, of Menlo Park, Calif., packaged food entrepreneur;
- Stephen Semprevivo, 53, of Los Angeles, Calif., executive at privately held provider of outsourced sales teams;
- Devin Sloane, 53, of Los Angeles, Calif., founder and CEO of provider of drinking and wastewater systems;
- John Wilson, 59, of Hyannis Port, Mass., founder and CEO of private equity and real estate development firm;
- Homayoun Zadeh, 57, of Calabasas, Calif., an associate professor of dentistry; and
- Robert Zangrillo, 52, of Miami, Fla., founder and CEO of private investment firm.