The Facts Behind the 2019 College Admissions Bribery Scandal
by Ande Frazier
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.
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:
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 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.
Ande began her 20+ year career as an adviser and quickly realized that many people weren’t taking into account was how emotions play a huge factor in financial decision making. Leaving behind her practice to focus solely on educating both advisers and consumers alike, she became an expert in behavioral finance. Author, speaker, thought leader, and money educator, Ande is helping women to take control of their money.