- The US attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, announced on Tuesday charges against 50 people in connection with a nationwide college-admissions scam.
- Lelling said the 33 parents caught up in the fraud paid William Singer to help their kids get into elite schools by helping them cheat on entrance exams or getting them recruited as athletes.
- The process involved bribing exam administrators and college coaches, the charging documents said.
Fifty people, including the actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, have been implicated in a nationwide college-admissions scam.
At a press conference on Tuesday morning, the US attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, explained how the scheme worked. The Department of Justice also released charging documents with further details.
Lelling said that 33 wealthy parents paid a college-admissions consultant, William Singer, large sums to help their children get into elite universities like Georgetown, Yale, and Stanford by helping them cheat on the ACT or SAT or bribing a coach to recruit them as an athlete.
Singer appears to be a cooperating witness in the investigation, and authorities said he would plead guilty.
Cheating on college-entrance exams
Lelling said Singer would pay someone, typically a man named Mark Riddell, to either take the exam for students or correct their answers to get a sufficiently high score.
An affidavit unsealed on Tuesday said parents were first instructed to take their child to a therapist and get a letter allowing them extra time to take the SAT or ACT based on a learning disability or some other issue.
Investigators said Singer then told parents to make up a reason, like a bar mitzvah or a wedding, that their child would need to take the exam in one of two locations – the Houston Test Center in Texas and the West Hollywood Test Center in California – where Singer had paid an administrator to overlook the stand-in taking the exam for the student or changing their answers.
The documents said two administrators, Niki Williams and Igor Dvorskiy, were paid as much as $US10,000 per student.
Lelling said Singer got the funds for these bribes by having the parents “donate” $US15,000 to $US75,000 per student to a sham charitable organisation he started called the Key Worldwide Foundation. The charging documents said Singer told some parents to tell anyone who asked that the money was to help disadvantaged children.
The US Attorney’s Office in Boston said that in many cases, the students had no idea “that their parents had arranged for the cheating.”
Fabricating ‘impressive athletic profiles’
Prosecutors said Singer would bribe coaches at certain elite schools to recruit a client’s child as an athlete, regardless of their athletic ability. The affidavit said Singer was paid a total of $US25 million over several years for this service.
Lelling said that in one example, the head women’s soccer coach at Yale gave one of Singer’s students a spot on the team in exchange for $US400,000 even though she didn’t play competitive soccer. Lelling said that student’s family then paid Singer $US1.2 million.
Lelling said Singer would also work with parents to “fabricate impressive athletic profiles” to give credence to a student’s recruitment, with made-up details about their participation in elite club teams and various athletic honours. These profiles included posed photos of the student playing a sport, or in some cases Singer’s group would use stock photos of athletes and edit a student’s face onto the body, the documents said.
“This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud,” Lelling said on Tuesday. “There can be no separate college-admissions system for the wealthy, and I’ll add that there will not be a separate criminal-justice system either.”
- Read more:
- 14 ridiculous things people actually put on their college applications
- This map shows the hardest college to get into in every state
- Former Princeton admissions director reveals the biggest mistakes applicants make
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