“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:
33 parents have been charged nationwide in connection with this cheating & athletic recruitment scheme. Some spent anywhere from $200K to $6.5 million to guarantee their children admission to elite universities. Fake athletic profiles were also submitted for some students. pic.twitter.com/BRPCUEeoeR
— FBI Boston (@FBIBoston) March 12, 2019
As mentioned, there were some famous people involved:
Lori Loughlin and her husband allegedly paid 500K(!) to get her daughters into USC https://t.co/laqMS2NljB
— Justin Prochaska (@JustinRPro) March 12, 2019
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.
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