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‘A Catalog Of Wealth And Privilege’: Details Emerge In Takedown Of College Bribery Scam

U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling of District of Massachusetts, announcing the charges at a news conference Tuesday, March 12.
U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling of District of Massachusetts, announcing the charges at a news conference Tuesday, March 12. Photo Credit: Screen grab

Details have emerged a day after the takedown of a coast-to-coast takedown of a college admissions bribery scheme involving top coaches and dozens of wealthy parents.

The 33 parents, described by US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling of Massachusetts as a "catalog of wealth and privilege," paid off a total of $25 million to a sham charity set up by the ringleader of the plot, William "Rick" Singer, 58, a California-based private college counseling veteran, who has agreed to forfeit $3.4 million.

The payments ranged from  $100,000 to $6.5 million apiece to help their children cheat on tests, produce Photoshopped applications showing the children playing specific sports, and to bribe college coaches from Yale, Stanford, USC, Wake Forest and Georgetown to gain admission.

The parents included two Hollywood actresses, Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, real-estate developers, a vineyard owner, fashion designer, an executive of a global equity firm and the chairman of a worldwide law firm. Huffman, an Academy Award nominee, is a Bedford native.

"We're talking about deception and fraud," said Lelling. "Fake test scores, fake credentials, fake photographs, bribed college officials."

In many cases, the students accepted to join college teams did not even play those sports in high school.

“The parents charged, 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. “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.”

The Boston-area FBI division launched the investigation, nicknamed “Operation Varsity Blues,” in May 2018.

The investigation remains active with additional targets possible, Justice Department officials said.

For a rundown of all the individuals arrested and the charges they are facing, click here.

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