Felicity Huffman from 'Desperate Housewives' and Lori Loughlin from 'Full House' are two of the high profile names connected with the scam along with CEOs of companies and investors. Coaches at Ivy League institutions like Yale, Georgetown, Stanford have also been indicted.
In what's is turning out to be a major scandal that involves some well knowns names in Hollywood and children of some very privileged families, investigators have unearthed the largest college cheating scam till date according to a report in ABC News. Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman from Desperate Housewives and Lori Loughlin from the show Full House are some of the biggest names to have been indicated in the scam. Other's include CEOs of companies as well as big investors in realty firms. Called "Operation Varsity Blues," the money that exchanged hands to get children into elite college was to the tune of around $25 million. These include Ivy League institutions such as Stanford, Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California. During a press briefing about the findings of the year-long investigations into the scam, Andrew Lelling, the US attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said these powerful words: "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."
Lelling further highlighted that, "This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud," The ringleader of the scam is William Singer who allegedly accepted bribes totaling $25 million from parents between 2011 and 2018 "to guarantee their children's admission to elite schools." according to Lelling. Singer is the owner of a college counseling service called Key Worldwide Foundation and a company called Edge College & Career Network.
On Tuesday, Singer pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court on charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice. Singer would direct parents to obtain medical documentation of a learning disability for their children or seek extended time for the children to take entrance exams. The parents were then told to get the location of the test changed to either two locations in Houston or another one in West Hollywood, California.
Meet the alleged ringleader of the massive college admissions scandal, William Rick Singer, the owner of Edge College & Career Network https://t.co/9iy57T8xYc— Business Insider (@businessinsider) March 12, 2019
In these test centers would be test administrators Niki Williams, 44, of Houston and Igor Dvorskiy, 52, of Sherman Oaks, California, who would help carry out the scam, the indictment alleges. Mark Riddell, a private school counselor in Bradenton, Florida, also worked closely with Singer in the scam and was paid by Singer $10,000 for each student to take the ACT and SAT exams on behalf of the students.
There are instances when the students in question knew what they were getting into. At other times students were in the dark and their scores were later improved without their knowledge the ABC News TV report said. Along with Huffman and Loughlin, as many as nine coaches at elite schools, as well as two SAT and ACT exam administrators, one exam proctor, a college administrator, and 33 parents, have been indicted.
Huffman paid around $15,000 that was passed off as a charitable donation so that her older daughter could take part in the college entrance cheating scam. Huffman and and her husband, actor William H. Macy, however, decided against going through with the scheme for their younger daughter. Huffman was arrested at her home in Los Angeles, while Loughlin, who is in Canada, has yet to be taken into custody. Huffman was later released after a Los Angeles judge agreed on a bond of $250,000.
Highlighting the different profiles of people who had been snared by the scam, Lelling said, "The parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege." He further said, "They include, for example, the CEOs of private and public companies, successful securities and real estate investors, two well-known actresses, a famous fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm." Lelling also highlighted how in many of the cases, Singer allegedly bribed the coaches of Ivy League schools.
Some of them "agreed to pretend that certain applicants were recruited competitive athletes when, in fact, the applicants were not." A case that was singled out by federal prosecutors, was that of a former head women’s soccer coach at Yale University named Rudolph "Rudy" Meredith, 51, who was paid $400,000 to accept a student even though the applicant did not play soccer. Singer was paid $1.2 million for this deal.
Lelling also said that 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, 58, allegedly even had parents stage photos or photoshopped pictures of their children participating in sports. Joe Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Field Office, said 300 special agents fanned out across the country early Tuesday and arrested 38 people. He said seven other suspects were working to surrender to authorities and one is being actively pursued.