College Admissions Bribery Scandal Ensnares Rich and Famous

At least 50 people across the country, including celebrities, financiers and university coaches, have been indicted in a shocking and massive admissions bribery scam that shows how great wealth and fraud allowed students with mediocre academic pedigrees to be admitted into some of the most prestigious universities in the country. (Bostonglobe.com).

According to federal prosecutors this week, wealthy parents used a California admissions counselor who assisted their children to cheat on the ACT and SAT examinations, and also bribed college coaches to ensure the students were treated as possible athletic recruits. This almost guaranteed them places at elite universities, including Yale and Georgetown.

Families are alleged to have paid $100,000 to $6.5 million for each child to assist their children to cheat on the college entrance tests and to make Photoshopped applications showing the children playing water polo and pole vaulting, and to offer bribes to college coaches, all to get a place in these elite colleges.

Two of the Hollywood celebrities indicted are actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, the chair of an international law firm, big real estate developers, the owner of a California vineyard, and the owner of a global equity company.

The Fallout Is Just Beginning - CNN

The story broke only this week and is just getting started, CNN reports. The cheating scandal currently spans six states and raises serious questions about how level the playing field is for college admissions at elite universities.

Still uncertain is what the fates are of the scholars who were admitted. Some of them may not have known what their parents did to secure them admission at the tony universities. That is probably why none of the youths involved in the scandal were immediately charged. According to US Attorney Andrew Lelling, the major operators of the fraud were the parents and various other defendants. But he did note that some students may have known of the fraud and could face charges later.

Meanwhile, university officials at Yale, Stanford, and Georgetown need to look at criminal claims that have been made against admissions staffers and other workers, some of which have been fired or have resigned.

Most critically, these universities will need to answer if highly qualified students were stiffed and not allowed entry because children of the rich and famous bribed their way in.

Lelling noted in his press conference that for every student that was admitted by cheating and fraud, another talented student was turned away.

Parents Shelled Out Up to $6.5 Million - FBI

The amounts of money that some parents paid in bribes would finance the college education for several students. Some paid from $200,000 to $6.5 million to ensure admission for their children, according to FBI Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta. The relatives of one youth paid $1.2 million to have him improperly named the co-captain of a California soccer team. That student did not even play competitive soccer.

To compare, the cost of tuition and fees at a private four-year college per year is around $30,000.

Lelling said the case shows the increasing corruption of the elite college admissions process through the application of wealth and fraud. He insisted there can be no separate and unequal college admission system for the rich, and there will not be a separate and unequal criminal justice process either.

Ringleader of the Scam Scored $25 Million, US Attorney Claims

Much of the federal indictment centers on William Singer, who is the founder of a for-profit college counseling and preparation business called The Key. Federal prosecutors reported that Singer told one parent that his company helps the richest families in the US get their children into elite universities.

There were two basic avenues to admit the youths, Lelling said. First was the process of cheating the SAT and ACT process, and the other was to mine his connections with DI coaches to use bribes to get parents into school with phony athletic credentials.

For instance, Singer and his fellow criminals used Photoshop to superimpose the fact of a rich parent’s student onto stock pictures of athletes.

Singer has already pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the US and obstruction of justice.

Hollywood Celebrities Were Recorded Discussing the Cheating Scheme

Felicity Huffman, best known for her role on ‘Desperate Housewives,’ has been accused of paying $15,000 to the fake charity Singer runs to get her daughter a higher score on the SATs. The daughter got 1420 on her test, which was a full 400 points higher than the PSAT she took a year before with another administrator. Huffman also talked about the scheme in a phone call that was recorded with a witness who was cooperating with federal agents. (CNN.com)

Huffman has been charged by the feds with felony conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. She was arrested at her California home without any incident on Monday. She made her first appearance in federal court the next day, where her bond was set at $250,000 and her passport was taken.

Lori Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on Full House, is facing the same felony charges. Her husband, Giannulli, has also been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

The feds allege that Loughlin and Giannulli agreed to pay bribes of $500,000 in exchange for their two daughters to be called recruits to the USC crew team even though neither had other participated in the sport.

The money was handed over to the fake charity belonging to Singer. IN a recorded phone conversation, Singer said the money was intended to get the daughters onto the USC crew team.

Giannulli appeared in court this week, and a judge set his bond at $1 million and he had to surrender his passport.

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