5 examples show the extreme lengths prosecutors say wealthy parents went to get their kids into elite colleges

Photo by Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty ImagesA view of the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles, California.
  • 33 parents were indicted on Tuesday as part of a $US25 million college admissions scheme.
  • Prosecutors said the scheme included bribing standardised test score administrators and college coaches to ensure students would be admitted to elite universities.
  • Authorities allege that parents worked with William Singer – the alleged ringleader of the scheme – to create nonexistent athletic profiles for their children and sent in doctored writing samples for the ACT and SAT exams.
  • Here are some of the most extreme things parents did as part of the alleged scheme.

CEOs and Hollywood actresses were indicted on Tuesday in a $US25 million college admissions scheme that included bribing standardised test score administrators and college coaches to ensure students would be admitted to elite universities, according to a criminal complaint released by the Department of Justice.

Prosecutors said 33 parents conspired with William Singer – the alleged ringleader of the operation – to boost their children’s chances of getting into elite schools.

Authorities said parents would pay Singer to bribe college coaches to have students recruited as Division 1 athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities. Singer would also organise for children’s ACT and SAT exams to be taken for them or corrected afterward, court documents said.

The US Attorney’s Office in Boston said the parents each paid $US200,000 to $US6.5 million to guarantee the admissions. Most payments were made in the form of donations to Singer’s charity foundation, then used as bribes to university and testing officials, court documents said.

But the extent to which parents went to guarantee their children’s admissions went past just money, prosecutors said. Authorities allege that parents worked with Singer to create nonexistent athletic profiles for their children and even sent in writing samples for test taking.

Here are five of the most extreme lengths parents are accused of going to get their children into college.

A senior executive at a title insurance company agreed to say his 5-foot-5 son was 6-foot-1 to get recruited as a basketball player at USC.

Toby MacFarlane, from Del Mar, California, allegedly agreed to participate in the admissions scheme by using bribery to get his daughter and son admitted to the University of Southern California as purported soccer and basketball recruits, respectively, according to court documents.

As part of his son’s application, prosecutors allege that an online athletic profile described the teen as being a 6-foot-1 basketball player. His son was actually 5-foot-5.


Read more:
Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin among dozens charged with participating in a scheme to get students into elite colleges

MacFarlane’s son was admitted to USC as a student athlete in February 2017 and enrolled that fall. He did not play basketball at the school and withdrew from classes in May 2018.

The complaint alleges that MacFarland spent $US550,000 to secure his daughter’s and son’s admissions to the private university.

A marketing executive submitted her son’s handwriting so it could be copied by a standardised test proctor.

An image showing the Buckingham's son's writing sample.Department of JusticeAn image showing the Buckingham’s son’s writing sample.

Jane Buckingham, CEO of the marketing firm Tendra, allegedly agreed to pay $US50,000 to have a man take the ACT for her son in July 2018, according to a criminal complaint released by the Department of Justice.

Court documents show Buckingham sharing a writing sample from her son with Singer so the man taking his exam could recreate it when taking the exam.

“Good luck with this,” she said as she emailed over the handwriting.


Read more:
A marketing CEO indicted in the $US25 million college admissions scandal once wrote a book about getting out of ‘sticky situations’

Buckingham also compared getting her son into USC to making peace in the Middle East, according to court documents.

“I know this is craziness, I know it is,” she told Singer in transcripts shared in court documents. “And then I need you to get him into USC, and then I need you to cure cancer and [make peace] in the Middle East.”

A businessman in LA bought a bunch of water polo gear off of Amazon to conduct a photo shoot for his son’s USC application.

Devin Sloane, the founder and chief executive of a drinking water and wastewater systems business in Los Angeles, California, bought water polo gear of Amazon to stage a photoshoot with his son for a USC application, according to the criminal complaint.

Sloane told Singer that he purchased a ball and a cap off of Amazon for the photoshoot in a June 2017 email, court documents said. Sloane’s son did not actually play water polo and his high school did not have a team.

When consulting with a graphic designer, Sloane was advised to take the photos in an indoor pool, court documents said.

After a couple attempts at taking the photo to look authentic, Singer said one image was “perfect,” according to court documents.

Prosecutors allege that a false athletic profile for Sloane’s son called the teen a “perimeter player” who played for the “Italian Junior National Team” and the “LA Water Polo” team.

A former CEO listed his daughter as a co-captain of a national Japanese soccer team.

Former CEO of Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO) Douglas Hodge is accused of getting one of his daughters and one of his sons into the University of Southern California using bribes to facilitate athletic recruitment admissions in 2013 and 2015, according to the criminal complaint.

His younger daughter’s application to the school stated she was co-captain of a Japanese national soccer team and “All American” on a prestigious club soccer team in the United States, court documents allege.

The daughter enrolled at USC in fall 2013, but did not join the soccer team.

By then Hodge was emailing Singer about his son, who at the time as a junior in high school and thinking about applying to USC, court document said.


Read more:
A former CEO’s daughter was allegedly listed as co-captain of a Japanese national soccer team as part of a $US25 million college admission scheme

When asked for photos of the son playing sports, Hodge’s spouse noted “she had not been able to find photos of the son who was applying to USC playing football, but had found photos of his brother playing football,” according to court documents.

“See below-I am sure there is a tennis one, too. The boys look alike so I thought a football one would help too?” the email said, according to court documents.

False athlete profiles were then made for the boy, saying he played varsity football and was team captain, court documents said.

The son enrolled at USC, but he did not join the football team.

A private equity firm executive had his son pose as a football kicker on USC applications. His high school didn’t have a football program.

Co Founder and CEO of the Rise Fund and Co Founder and Managing Partner of TPG Growth Bill McGlashan pictured in October 2017.Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty ImagesCo Founder and CEO of the Rise Fund and Co Founder and Managing Partner of TPG Growth Bill McGlashan pictured in October 2017.

Bill McGlashan, the founder and managing partner of TPG Growth, agreed to have his son’s USC application say he was a prominent football kicker and punter, despite his school not having a football team, according to the criminal complaint.

“I’m gonna make him a kicker/punter and they’re gonna walk him through with football,” Singer said in a voicemail to McGlashan. “I’ll get a picture and figure out how to Photoshop and stuff, so it looks like it, and the guy who runs the biggest kicking camp is a good friend.”


Read more:
A private equity firm executive had his son pose as a football kicker on USC applications, despite his high school not having a football team

Singer said to McGlashan that it didn’t matter that the school didn’t have a football team because “they have all these kicking camps and these kickers always get picked up outside of the school.”

McGlashan joked that his son has “really strong legs,” according to transcripts in the court documents.

“Maybe he’ll become a kicker. You never know,” McGlashan said. “You could inspire him. You may actually turn him into something. I love it.”

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.