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By Elisha Fieldstadt
An alleged cheating ploy on college admissions, to the detriment of $ 25 million, disavowed celebrities, started legal proceedings, led to several layoffs of school staff and business figures, and a national conversation on how wealth and privilege play in the college application process.
Here's what we know from the results of the FBI-led Operation Varsity Blues investigation, which lasted 10 months and resulted in charges against 50 people – including the scam-brain, his accomplices and his parents.
Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were among the 33 accused parents.
L & # 39; scam
The alleged scam was aimed at getting students enrolled in elite universities, even if they were not practicing sports, and helping them cheat or outsource their standardized university exams.
Some parents spent between $ 200,000 and $ 6.5 million to guarantee their children guaranteed admission to the school of their choice.
"This case concerns the growing corruption of admissions to elite colleges through the regular application of wealth, associated with fraud," said Tuesday the US Attorney General of Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling.
"There can be no separate admission to college for the rich, and I will add that there will also be no separate criminal justice system," he said. he declares.
The plot involved students seeking to attend Georgetown, Stanford, Yale, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of San Diego, the University of Southern California, the University Texas and Wake Forest University, according to federal prosecutors.
Colleges are not the target of the ongoing investigation.
In addition, none of the students involved were charged. The authorities stated that many children did not know that their parents were paying to secure their places.
Prosecutors said the person who orchestrated this scam was William Rick Singer, founder of The Edge College & Career Network, LLC, also known as "The Key", based in Newport Beach, California.
"I'm absolutely responsible for that," 58-year-old Singer told US judge Rya W. Zobel in Massachusetts, Massachusetts. "I put everything in place, I put all the people in place and made the payments directly."
Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money-laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice. He could be sentenced to a maximum of 65 years in prison.
Between 2011 and last month, parents paid Singer about $ 25 million to entice coaches and university administrators to "designate their children as recruited athletes," according to court documents. Singer said that he had helped provide 761 families with "side doors" of access.
Singer's associates would create fake sports profiles for students, and then support college coaches to reserve seats for athletes, the authorities said.
Singer also received between $ 15,000 and $ 75,000 per SAT or ACT that someone else would take for the children of wealthy parents. The singer bribed the test administrators to allow substitutes to take the exams, officials said.
In other cases, Singer would give students more time to pass standardized tests.
Singer eventually helped the investigators when he agreed to carry a thread to unravel the scam. The FBI had initially discovered evidence of "large-scale fraud" while it was conducting a separate secret investigation. The investigation began in May and involved 200 federal officials in six states.
Loughlin, best known for his role in the "Full House" sitcom of the '80s and' 90s, and Huffman, who starred in the hit show "Desperate Housewives," in 2004-12, have been accused of conspiring in to commit postal fraud and honest services. participation in the plan.
Loughlin and her stylist husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have agreed to pay $ 500,000 in bribes to bolster their two daughters' chances of being admitted to the University of Southern California, according to reports. court documents. Huffman and her husband, actor William H. Macy, paid $ 15,000 for one of their daughters to have unlimited time to pass his security test, prosecutors said.
Other parents involved in the fraud include: Gamal Abdelaziz, former president and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts Development; Gordon Caplan, co-chair of the Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP law firm; and Gregory Abbot, CEO of the International Dispensing Company.
Manuel Henriquez resigned as Chairman and CEO of Hercules Capital. William McGlashan, a director of TPG, was indefinitely discharged into the private equity firm after being indicted as part of the project to secure the place of their children in the best schools.
Other business leaders accused include Agustin Huneeus, head of the Huneeus Vineyard in Napa Valley, California; Douglas Hodge, former CEO of Pimco; and Robert Zangrillo, CEO of Dragon Global, an investment company.
The candidate and the administrators of the examination
Mark Riddell, a 36-year-old Harvard alum, received about $ 10,000 each time he smuggled a SAT or ACT in place of a student. He had been working for Singer since 2012.
The number of tests that Riddell has undergone was not yet clear, but prosecutors are seeking to recover nearly $ 450,000 in confiscation.
Riddell faces two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering and was indefinitely suspended from his position as Director of Collegial Exam Preparation. IMG Academy Florida Prep School.
Singer had also bought two people who had administered the exams – Igor Dvorsiky of Los Angeles and Lisa "Niki" Williams of Houston – to allow Riddell to take the tests or replace the student answer sheets with his own.
College staff and coaches
Yale's women's football coach, Rudolph Meredith, who booked a place in the team to a student whom he knew did not play competitive football, was charged with conspiring to to commit wire fraud and fraud through honest services. Yale's president said Meredith was no longer working at the school.
Jorge Salcedo, a former professional football player who led the UCLA men's team; William Ferguson, Women's Volleyball Coach at Wake Forest; and John Vandemoer, head coach of Stanford, were also charged in the alleged ploy.
Standford returned Vandemoer while UCLA had stated that Salcedo was on leave while the case was under review.
The University of Southern California also fired two sports department employees – Senior Sports Director Donna Heinel and water polo coach Jovan Vavic – for allegedly accepting bribes. over $ 1.3 million and $ 250,000, respectively, to help children become sporting recruits.
Loughlin was also fired. The parent company of Hallmark said on Thursday that she was no longer working with the actress and that all her finished work would be removed.
Loughlin went on Wednesday and was released on bail of one million dollars.
Meanwhile, one of her daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli, YouTube star and social media influencer, has been dropped as an associate and paid influential of the beauty brand Sephora. TRESemmé hair product brand said in a statement on Thursday that it was also ending a partnership with Giannulli.
Giannulli and her sister, Isabella Giannulli, are still enrolled in the USC, said Thursday at NBC News a representative of the university. A case-by-case review will be conducted for students who are at the university and who may have links to the criminal investigation.
Current applicants linked to this project will be denied admission, said a spokesman for the USC.
Loughlin, Huffman, Singer and other indicted persons are also being sued by Jennifer Kay Toy, a mother who said her son, who had an average of 4.2, was not admitted into some schools of his choice because of the "despicable deeds of the accused". . "
A lawsuit filed Thursday by Stanford University student Kalea Woods against Singer and the schools included in the survey reveals that she lost time and money when applying to college, and that her degree would be less useful ", because potential employers can now wonder if she was admitted to the university on her own merits, as opposed to having wealthy parents willing to bribe school officials. "
Students from Tulane University, Rutgers University and an Orange County Community College in California also filed what they hoped would become a class action against Singer and the universities involved in this scheme.