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Wealthy Parents, Celebrities Charged by FBI in Massive College Admissions Cheating Scandal

Wealthy Parents, Celebrities Charged by FBI in Massive College Admissions Cheating Scandal

“bribed college coaches and administrators and organized a scheme to help students cheat on college entrance exams, including the ACT and SAT”

In a sweeping sting dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” the FBI and federal authorities in Boston have charged 50 people in what has become the largest college admissions cheating scandal in history.

Parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, allegedly paid millions in bribes, to secure college admission for their children. Payments were not made directly to schools, but to coaches and other figures.

NBC News reports:

Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman among 50 charged in college admissions scheme

Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among 50 people charged in a $25 million college entrance exam cheating scheme, according to court documents unsealed in Boston on Tuesday.

The alleged scam focused on getting students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams, according to the indictment.

Authorities said the FBI investigation, code-named Operation Varsity Blues, uncovered a network of wealthy parents who paid thousands of dollars to a California man who boosted their children’s chances of gaining entrance into elite colleges, such as Yale and Stanford, by paying people to take tests for their children, bribing test administrators to allow that to happen, and bribing college coaches to identify the applicants as athletes.

Politico has more:

Among those charged are “Desperate Housewives” star Huffman and Loughlin of “Full House” fame. Loughlin’s husband, clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli, was also charged. They and several others are accused of scheming to get their children into schools including Georgetown; Yale; Stanford; the University of Texas; the University of Southern California; the University of California, Los Angeles; and others.

Coaches at Georgetown, USC, UCLA and other schools face racketeering charges.

The FBI says the parents paid a college counseling and test prep business in Newport Beach, Calif., called “The Key,” which bribed college coaches and administrators and organized a scheme to help students cheat on college entrance exams, including the ACT and SAT.

ABC News reports that the man at the center of the scandal has already pleaded guilty:

According to Lelling, the ringleader of the scam is William Singer, owner of a college counseling service called Key Worldwide Foundation and a company called Edge College & Career Network. Singer allegedly accepted bribes totaling $25 million from parents between 2011 and 2018 “to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools,” Lelling said.

Singer of Newport Beach, California, pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court on Tuesday on charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice, Lelling said.

Steven Masera, 69, the accountant and financial officer for the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation, was also indicted, according to court documents. Masera and Mark Riddell, a private school counselor in Bradenton, Florida, allegedly worked closely with Singer in the scam, according to the indictment.

One of the charges is that people used Photoshop to put the faces of their children into photos of people playing sports in order to make them more desirable applicants:

As mentioned, there were some famous people involved:

This short video from ABC News covers the basic details:

In this video from the AP, Andrew Lelling, United States attorney for the District of Massachusetts explains the charges:

This is pretty huge. People will likely go to jail over this.

Featured image via YouTube.


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What will this cosseted duo do for hair, nails, skincare and makeup in Federal Prison? Maybe they will be able to at least get a massage?

    Arminius in reply to dystopia. | March 13, 2019 at 8:18 pm

    Maybe they’ll still be able to get a massage? Something tells me they’ll get plenty of massages and they won’t have any say in the matter.

“Desperate College Moms”


Between the karma of these liberal moral scolds downfall for breaking the law – to paying $500,000 to get into USC?

How about paying $1,000 to get them a tutor and some SAT prep, and have them study a little bit?


I bet they all publicly support affirmative action and racial quotas while cheating on a merit-based system.

Hypocrisy that every American who can’t afford a cool half million to thwart the system is sure to remember.

Is that what Lizzie Warren meant when the system is rigged? Only Indians and the rich get to go to the front of the line?

    Arminius in reply to PrincetonAl. | March 13, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    “How about paying $1,000 to get them a tutor and some SAT prep, and have them study a little bit?”

    Because mommy and daddy know their little darlings couldn’t cut it no matter how much they tried. And by that I mean the spoiled little darlings have a k-12 track record of not trying. How much do you want to bet mommy and daddy never made them work for anything their whole lives? So none of them are going to start now.

      Milwaukee in reply to Arminius. | March 14, 2019 at 12:13 am

      “… a k-12 track record of not trying.”

      I would bet that mommy and daddy have a K-12 record of harassing teachers with threats and abuse for not favoring their little darlings. Administrators will back those parents up without a thought, and hold the arms of the teacher trying to defend themselves.

    Milwaukee in reply to PrincetonAl. | March 14, 2019 at 12:18 am

    “How about paying $1,000 to get them a tutor and some SAT prep, and have them study a little bit?”

    I doubt they have tried that before, and we, you, me, the parents, and the kids, know that isn’t going to work. For one thing, the children are spoiled into believing they don’t need to make an effort, and the parents know their own child is dumb as a post, so there is no point in trying.

legacyrepublican | March 13, 2019 at 8:22 am

I can see their defense strategy now …

“We claim white privilege!”

Is it a federal crime to cheat on the ACT/SAT?

    UnCivilServant in reply to Roux. | March 13, 2019 at 9:02 am

    No, but a number of the schools listed were state institutions, which means bribery of a public official. then there were a few who made their bribes by donating to a ‘charity’ and attempting to write it off on their taxes. So it depends on the individal case what charges get accrued.

    Arminius in reply to Roux. | March 14, 2019 at 3:30 pm

    Mail and wire fraud are federal crimes. From what I’ve been able to find the charges are mostly in that arena.

So, Aunt Becky is hauled off to jail and Peter Stzok is still running loose?

Did ya notice that only places with perceived prestige, but with plenty of fluff majors (e.g. “studies”), were the targets?

None of the targeted schools were ones where, once you got there, you really would have to prove your stuff, and do some solid work and have an understanding of some difficult material and concepts? No MIT, RPI, Caltech, CalPoly, Georgia Tech, Harvey Mudd, and so forth.


“Math is so hard”

    tom_swift in reply to pfg. | March 13, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Stanford isn’t a notoriously “fluff” school.

    Not too long ago, Yale wasn’t either, but nowadays things are different.

From the news reports it seems almost all the students helped were women. Maybe that’s because of the effects of title IX and how universities are desperate for FEMALE athletes to compete in the minor sports that nobody watches to balance out the major sports dominated by male athletes. Besides the exam cheating the scheme seemed to mostly involve paying off coaches for female minor sports teams to say a student was a desirable athlete so the university would lower the standards of admission for that female student.

    Titan28 in reply to garybritt. | March 13, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Absolutely. I’m with you. Title IX plays a big role in this.

    Arminius in reply to garybritt. | March 13, 2019 at 8:14 pm

    I hate to be a wet blanket, as that’s a good theory you have there, but here’s a list of suspects that have been arrested.

    Some of the suspects exclusively coach boys (the paper lists these teams as men’s teams but I refuse to apply the word.) Jorge Salcedo is the head coach of boy’s soccer team at USC while Michael Center is the head tennis coach at UTA (why would anyone bribe people to get their kid into that school). Others like Jovan Vavic of USC and John Vandemoer of Stanford coach boys and girls (water polo and sailing, respectively). It seems to me a significant number of these corrupt parents were trying to get their slacker male spawn into these schools as well.

From the ABC News article:
“Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., a presidential candidate and a former school teacher, expressed outrage over the scandal in an interview Tuesday with ABC News.”
“This is just stunning,” Warren said. “To me this is just one more example of how the rich and powerful know how to take care of their own.”

So I guess it would have been alright if, instead of paying bribes, they’d gotten in by making false claims of minority status…

    fscarn in reply to PaulM. | March 13, 2019 at 9:16 am

    Matthew Walther recently wrote, “The genius of Elizabeth Warren” (

    And in an ugly, rather selfish sense, I suppose she does have genius. Coming from the sticks of Oklahoma, basic low to middle class life status, with middling grades, going to a middling college and a middling law school, having less than middling “scholarship,” then finding the key – stealing racial identity – that turns all the locks allowing her to enter a world unknown, taking her to the teaching halls of Harvard Law, to the US Senate, to a 14,000,000 net worth, to a bid for POTUS.

    All based on a lie and theft.

    Yeah, I suppose that’s genius of some sort.

      MajorWood in reply to fscarn. | March 13, 2019 at 11:24 am

      “Once you lose your integrity, the rest is simple.” JR Ewing

      Observer in reply to fscarn. | March 13, 2019 at 12:42 pm

      It wasn’t just Warren’s fake Indian identity that was the key, it was also her marriage to the more talented and much better credentialed Bruce Mann (B.A. and M.A. from Brown, master’s, J.D. and Ph.D. from Yale) that greased Warren’s skids into the Ivy League, despite her mediocre resume’ and dubious legal research. Mann got Warren hired as a “spousal hire” at one of the Ivies that wanted him — he reportedly conditioned his acceptance of the job on her being hired too. Because they wanted Mann, they took Warren too. Once she’d been hired by one Ivy, it was much easier for Warren to get hired by another, especially when she started claiming minority status as a Native American.

      As the saying goes, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

    PaulM in reply to PaulM. | March 13, 2019 at 9:21 am

    I left this comment on the ABC story, and it was deleted within five minutes.

      iconotastic in reply to PaulM. | March 13, 2019 at 10:17 am

      “Modern journalism is all about deciding which facts the public shouldn’t know because they might reflect badly on Democrats.”

      Jim Treacher

I don’t understand. Why did the FBI pay any attention at all to all these rich people? Did they donate to Trump?

    n.n in reply to irv. | March 13, 2019 at 10:36 am

    The timing and selectivity is suspicious. There are far greater scandals, including the progressive cost of education that is shared by parents, students, and taxpayers. As well as diversity and other official policies of affirmative discrimination. The purchase of credits by the wealthy and connected is an older story.

I wonder how well these students did in school. It would be interesting to see an anonymized comparison with students accepted without special considerations (athletes, AA, etc.).

    Lori Loughlin is one of the mains in Hallmark’s “When Calls The Heart”. My wife is a fan and has been following the story. It’s a period drama set in Canada and Lori Loughlin’s character is wholesome and Christian – all the women on that show are.

    Loughlin’s daughter is a Youtube star of sorts and recorded a video to her Youtube channel wherein she said she wasn’t interested in school for the education, but rather the party-life. It caused a backlash even before the investigation broke.

    I can’t bring myself to care about this in the least – and wonder why it is the FBI and DOJ doesn’t just give ’em all the Hillary treatment. If anything, this investigation sickens me even more about Hillary, Strozk, Page, Mueller, Holder, et al.

It’s tempting to get all excited about the big-league comeuppance here, but the link between the crimes and the Reality TV stars seems tenuous.

Paying a firm to do some maneuvering to help get a student into a school somewhat above his aptitude grade is neither new nor criminal.

Photoshopped pix of sporting prowess, and ringers paid to take exams, are of course another matter, but it’s not obvious from what’s been reported that any of these goofball customers did these things, or even knew they were paying for them to be done by pros.

I’m also a bit puzzled about why Boston was involved. The Boston environs have scads of colleges, but none of the named schools are anywhere near the area.

Whatever happened to the cheating scandal in Atlanta. Did they ever parade the administrators, teachers, and others involved? Theft of taxpayer money and shortchanging students on a massive scale.

My experience is that although it can be very difficult to get admitted to one of these highly selective schools, one you’re in it’s harder to flunk out than it would be at many less selective schools.

I’m not sure why that is, but part of it may be the assumption that since you got admitted you’re probably pretty good, and therefore graders at these elite schools give more “benefit of the doubt” than one would expect at a less selective school.

    At Stanford Law School the mantra of some students was: “We are all so smart that it is silly to attempt to rank us by grading, so we don’t need grades.” It worked in large part.

    Arminius in reply to Albigensian. | March 14, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    As we have seen in the recent campus madness incidents, the inmates run the asylum. One aspect of that is that a professor’s career and future job security hangs by a thread. And that thread is student reviews.

    Naturally, harsh (honest) graders don’t get good student reviews. Which means aspiring untenured academics, whether on a tenure track or not, live in fear of the dreaded student reviews. Academics who haven’t yet attained tenure never will, while those in a non-tenure track position simply won’t remain employed for long.

    I’m not sure how much tenured professors have to fear. Lately it seems to be physical violence, since it’s now acceptable to respond with actual violence against imaginary “micro-aggressions.” And woe to you if you “invade” their “safe spaces.” At least, without a peace offering of an emotional support animal.

A side issue here: FBI agents showed up at Huffman’s house at 6 a.m. waving weapons of some kind (unclear if it was Tasers or actual guns)? Really?

The FBI needs to go. The 8 or so agents who aren’t either stupid or rotten to the core can stay behind and help construct something new, if it’s needed, but the rest need to be placed on welfare, or locked up.

DOJ. FBI. Things are out of hand.

They seem to think they’re the Stasi.

This is all coming out the day after Lisa Page testified. Coincidence?

amatuerwrangler | March 13, 2019 at 11:29 am

Where this will leave the practice of “legacy” admissions.

And some of the described activity does not seem to meet the criteria of what many call a bribe. If the parents paid the agency claiming the ability to enhance the odd of getting admitted and they got admitted, wouldn’t the parents be merely paying for a service rendered unless they knew exactly how this was going to be accomplished. Now the guy who “shopped” the photos, influenced the coaches, paid the proxy test-takers… his “stuff” appears weak, as well as those school employees who took money to make it happen.

I still question whether, aside from the perceived prestige of the diploma, the actual education, knowledge gained, at these schools is that much better that delivered by the mainstream schools.

No liberal will spend one minute in jail. Why weren’t the kids involved arrested? If they were underage tried as jeuveniles. They had to know their SAT scores were being changed. If they are still underage, child welfare and possible removal from the home should be investigated.

This is horrible. The unqualified rich white kids are taking slots away from unqualified dark skinned kids.

    Milwaukee in reply to Anchovy. | March 14, 2019 at 12:05 am

    Anchovy :”This is horrible. The unqualified rich white kids are taking slots away from unqualified dark skinned kids.”

    No. Pay attention to what is going on. The oppressed “people of color” are getting into college on Affirmative Action. The seats being taken are from qualified, less-affluent White children. Which why some blame Affirmative Action on George W. Bush getting into Yale in the first place. Seats for rich kids are safe.

    I think this whole thing tells us how dense the parents are: the money would have been better spent putting the child into an apprenticeship program. For $500,000 a child could be taught a trade and bought a business. So, the parents are no more clever than their children. At least the parents recognized that their darling offspring wasn’t particularly bright or motivated and needed the extra help.

Timing is everything.

This investigation has been going on since 2011, 9 years. The DOJ waited until the operator of this service had pled guilty to several counts stemming from his activities BEFORE charging his high profile clients. It appears that there was no prosecutable case against the clients until Singer agreed to a plea deal. Does this mean that Singer is the entire case against the clients?

While cheating to gain admittance to a college should be stopped, it is not the end of the world. People have been buying their children’s way into “prestigious” schools forever. If it wasn’t for student loans and “scholarships”, only thee rich could afford to send their children to private institutions. And, “endowments” routinely result in children of those making the endowment being accepted as students.

Now, a school employee accepting a bribe or other gratuity, to falsely attest to an applicant’s qualifications for acceptance, is something else. This is a wholly unacceptable practice and should be dealt with, at least by the school. Students who benefited from fraudulent applications should be expelled or stripped of their degrees, if the degree was not earned academically. But, all of these schools were paid. So far there is no evidence that any diplomas were bought. So, the institution is not really a victim in this at all. As to making a qualified applicant who was denied admission due to these fraudulent applications, we will have to see who they are and what damages they suffered.

But, these arrests are all about the optics. The DOJ has not been doing so well lately. So here we have a huge case, who no one other than a person who wants got attend an Ivy League School really gives a hoot about, involving rich people, the new bogie man. You have a couple of actresses who had bond set at $250,000 and $1 million dollars. Felicity Huffman was arrested, at gunpoint at 6am, at her home. Who did they kill? How many widows and orphans did they cast out into the snow? How many banks did they rob? How much drugs did they sell?

This is just another BS case designed to make the Bureau look good.

    JPL17 in reply to Mac45. | March 13, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Actually, if you read the affidavit, it looks like (a) the FBI didn’t discover the conspiracy until recently; and (b) the evidence includes very explicit e-mails and phone taps in which all the conspirators acknowledge the conspiracy. So it’s FAR from a “BS case”. See

      Mac45 in reply to JPL17. | March 13, 2019 at 4:16 pm

      Sorry, but this is still BS.

      Whether the parents explicitly knew that what they were doing was illegal or not, is not really relevant. What is relevant is how this whole case is being hyped.

      What we have is a bunch of schools, most privately owned, which did not lose any money on this deal. They still got the tuition from the students. The College Boards still got paid for the testing done. All of the real illegalities were done by employees of the schools, the College Board and the people running the operation who actually handled the pay-offs. The schools failed to do due diligence, the College Board failed to adequately monitor its employees, the schools failed to discover that students admitted on the basis of athletic ability did not have any [they probably continued to cash the tuition checks though]. And, it is impossible to assign damages to any anonymous person, who failed to gain admission due to this operation. In fact, it looks as though the only entity which actually suffered any damages was the US Government, through the failure to report taxes by the placement company and fraudulent tax deductions for charitable donations. But, I did not see any such charges mentioned.

      This is hardly analogous to a major drug ring, an investment scheme which bilked multiple people out of their life savings or even a robbery ring. Yet, it is being hyped as though these people are the la Cosa Nostra. Should it be prosecuted? Certainly. Is it a significant case of wrongdoing, on the part of the clients? No. Essentially, the wrongdoing attributed to the clients is BS.

        JPL17 in reply to Mac45. | March 13, 2019 at 6:04 pm

        I certainly haven’t hyped this case like it was a prosecution of La Cosa Nostra or a drug ring. Nor have I heard anyone else do so.

        No, most people consider this case to be huge in its own right, because of a combination of factors — the prominence of the fraudsters, the sheer brazenness of their fraud, the scope of the conspiracy, the huge dollars spent in bribes, and the untold damage their alleged crimes do to the credibility of the college admissions system and the prestige of the schools concerned.

    Andy in reply to Mac45. | March 13, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    They’ve got all the makings of a modern major general.

How the hell is hillary clinton still walking around free?

Wouldn’t it have been easier to just photoshop the diploma? For years I’ve been telling people I graduated from Hogwarts and then Space Academy. No one has ever questioned it.

The real joke is— well all of this to get into an institution of learning that qualifies you to make a $15/hr. Mike Rowe probably spit coffee through his nose laughing when the story broke.

Never thought I’d see people investigated for it in America. I’ve heard of notable scandals in other countries… in passing.

Where’s the list?

This is fluff stuff. At the time I was accepted to med school plenty of money was shown flowing into universities coinciding with junior or missie being accepted.

Got to love many of these schools… no chance to get in if over 26, or (a biggie) having been a nurse. My primary job as a TA one semester was preventing the son of a med school prof from blowing up the chemistry lab. He as on an easy path to acceptance (knowing that school) while others were dumped. Happy ending.. one of the other shunned grad students wound up sought after and accepted by Duke and I got into UW.. both far better.

As Rush said … University of Spoiled Children.

So the unintended consequences here are that rich people can no longer be safe giving huge chunks of change to schools for preferred admission, which now means that the schools no longer have large chunks of change available to give to offset the tuition of poorer kids (that is, whatever is left after the administration has had their taste). So the ones who are getting screwed in this deal are both the administrators AND the poorer students, as money is being removed from the system that supports them. College, meet the second law of thermodynamics. This could have a serious trickle down effect to the whole system. And I wonder who started the ball rolling, because it seems that no one will benefit from this, except for perhaps rich people with stupid kids, who will no longer be able to pony up $$ for the privilege.

God I love it when a corruption scandal actually targets the corrupt. It is so rare these days.

    Arminius in reply to MajorWood. | March 13, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    No, really rich people can still do that. But that takes tens of millions of dollars to start an endowment to, I dunno, support a transgender lesbian interpretive dance program or even more bucks to add a new wing with the family name on it to the gender and racial grievance studies department.

    What are the po’ folk, the merely rich who only have $500k to $2.5M to spare, you know; pocket change, supposed to do.


ANYONE who believes the b.s. that the university higher-ups didn’t know this was going on – and turned a blind eye to it if they did: I have scholars named barack obama, michelle obama, Chelsea Clinton and the like I want to sell you.

Btw, there’s another scandal brewing: one in which people were paid to take the NY Bar exam for many famous people, including NY elected officials, governors, etc. Gee, who could that be?

This is so “the emperor has no clothes”. My past includes time served in a private school near one of our service academies. If your daddy was a colonel you had a real good chance of an appointment. If your daddy was a general with more than one star, getting in was not a problem. If daddy was only a major, well, good thing there are other schools.

All this is a storm in a teapot. Raise your hand if you didn’t know the system was rigged. For example, state schools have for years had slacker admission requirements for out-of-state students because those students paid more in tuition. Affirmative Action is another mess. I have students whose father was Black, yes, looking at him, he is Black. But the mother was White, and unless you knew the father was Black, you would never guess that looking at any of the three daughters. Yet they got to claim “Black” on the Affirmative Action lottery. Even way back in 1974, a classmate with red hair and freckles had the surname “Gonzales” because of her father. Somehow she got to claim “Hispanic” status. Whatever.

PersonofInterests | March 14, 2019 at 9:35 am

Guess we now may know why Barack Obama so jealously held secret his school records; why there is either no or only vague recollection of him being seen attending those prestigious institutions of academia. Experienced at “Shuckin’ and Jivin” and reading prepared material from a teleprompter, where is the evidence of his acts to prove attendance at Harvard? Money doesn’t just talk, IT SCREAMS. The big question is who paid and who got paid??

The truth is that this has been going on for a very long time and this abomination now exposed for all to see with unbelievable acts to conspire fraud, is the “Feeder System” that keeps the Wealthy and Privileged Class ruling the great unwashed. What better example than the life of Edward (Ted) Kennedy who no doubt had a few strings pulled for him over the years ending up in the U.S. Senate as “Senator for Life.”

The “Feeder System” is how we end up with people of seemingly impeccable academic records who truth be known, are way short of deserving to be placed in roles higher than cleaning out a Dairy Barn. Paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure a child is well credentialed, even photoshopping a child only 5 feet tall to be a basketball star of over 6 feet in order to be accepted into the “Feeder System” and later, into the “Government Employment Welfare System”, demonstrates its perceived worth. How about those in Congress who may come to mind, e.g., Maxine Waters, Alexandria Ocassional Cortex.

One of the differences between a work that requires an Academic Achievement Credential and one that requires a Technical Achievement Credential is that, on the job performance is difficult to fake; welding, running a milling machine, or installing electrical wiring readily demonstrate what you know, while sitting behind a desk with a phony Diploma on the Wall, not so much.

That celebrities have dumb kids is hardly news–genes do count, even though the social justice types deny that. And as I wrote in a letter to the editor to WSJ, the prosecutors should next investigate how schools like Harvard construct their list of favored applicants who achieve
disproportionately high rates of admission. As one that was involved for 40 years in the
academic cesspool, I can testify that I never encountered a college or university administrator
whose number one priority was not to bring in the maximum cash.

David Gerstman said he didn’t like the crime of mail fraud. I don’t like any fraud. Mail fraud is just easier to prove, because it is on paper.

There should also be a telecommunications fraud statute that covers phone, fax, E-Mail, web sites, etc.