The Facts Behind the 2019 College Admissions Bribery Scandal

by Ande Frazier

Financial Frequency. myNews

March 28, 2019 .3 min read

High profiled celebrities. CEOs. College Admissions. Allegations of cheating and bribery.

These are the words that are defining the largest college admissions bribery scandal not only of 2019 but in U.S. history.

On March 12, 2019, fifty people were charged by the U.S. Attorney in the District of Massachusetts, in federal court as part of a long-running, nationwide conspiracy, dating back to 2011, to illicitly gain admission for their children to top colleges and universities. Of the fifty people, two actresses Felicity Huffman (Desperate Housewives) and Lori Loughlin (Full House, Fuller House) have been included in the indictment.

According to unsealed court documents, here’s what we know about some of the allegations included in “Operation Varsity Blues" (as the investigation is known):


The rough amount parents paid in total to help their children gain admission to exclusive colleges and universities including, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and USC.

$200K – $6.5M

Parents allegedly paid anywhere from $200,000 up to $6.5 million to have their children admitted to various college and universities.

Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin

Both actresses were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud.

Bribes totaling $500K

Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, allegedly “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC."

Loughlin or Giannulli have yet to enter a plea but were granted a $1 million bond. They are set to appear in court in Boston, MA on March 29, 2019.

Charitable contributions of $15K

Huffman has also allegedly “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000″ that was used “to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter."

Huffman has not entered a plea at this time but paid her $250,000 bond and is set to appear in court in Boston, MA on March 29, 2019.

Bribing college entrance exam officials

Allegations include bribing college entrance exam officials to facilitate cheating on college entrance exams such as the SAT and ACT.

Bribing coaches and administrators

Applicants were also allegedly designated as recruited athletes (they were not athletes, to begin with) to gain admission to colleges and universities.

Charitable organizations were then used to conceal bribery payments. Some college coaches allegedly took their received funds for themselves while others allegedly gave some money to their college or university.

Third parties used to take classes and exams

Allegations also include having third parties take classes and exams in place of students.

Falsified applications

Those third party earned grades were then allegedly submitted as part of the students’ college applications. In addition to that, falsified applications for admission were submitted which contained fraudulently-obtained exam scores, grades, awards, as well as athletic activities.

College Counselor William “Rick" Singer

William “Rick" Singer is at the center of Operation Varsity Blues and apparently had 700+ clients but at this time there is no clear indication whether or not all of his clients participated in the alleged scheme.

The college counselor has pleaded guilty to the following:

  • racketeering conspiracy
  • money laundering conspiracy;
  • conspiracy to defraud the US;
  • And obstruction of justice.

Singer could face up to 65 years in jail as well as $1.25 million in fines but has cooperated with the Justice Department and FBI by wearing a wire to implicate others named in the indictment.

The Discovery

The alleged scheme was originally discovered by accident, while working through an unrelated case involving William “Rick" Singer – as he was being investigated for securities fraud.

At this time, no students have been charged.

To view a full list of who is currently being charged, click here.