Breaking: Dozens Charged in Elite College Admissions Bribery Ring
On Tuesday morning, news broke that a group of over 40 CEOs, celebrities, college athletics coaches, and admissions officials are being charged in connection with a large-scale college admissions bribery ring.
Described as “the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted by the Justice Department,” the case centers on William Rick Singer, owner of The Edge College & Career Network, a California-based for-profit college admissions company. Singer is being charged with “racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to defraud the United States.”
The court documents shed light on the inner workings of this conspiracy. According to the FBI, wealthy parents paid Singer via “charitable donations” to The Key Worldwide Fund (KWF), an organization Singer created in 2012 to serve as the nonprofit arm of his college consulting firm. These “donations” ranged from $200,000 to $6.5 million, depending on what Singer did in return for the parents’ students.
Singer’s resulting actions took two forms: cheating on standardized tests and falsifying athletic histories. For students who needed score increases on the SAT or ACT, Singer arranged to have someone else take the student’s exams or to have the student’s answers replaced with someone else’s; his accomplice in this part of the scheme, according to the Justice Department, is Mark Riddell, Director of College Entrance Exam Preparation at IMG Academy, a sport training and preparatory school in Bradenton, Florida.
In order to pass off Riddell’s responses as authentic, Singer coached the families in question to apply for special testing accommodations, which require a separate test administrator. Once the accommodations were approved, Singer arranged for the students to be tested individually by administrators on his payroll. This setting allowed them to substitute Riddell’s test for the students’ without detection. These administrators, who are school employees and also serve as paid ACT and SAT test administrators, have been charged in connection with Singer.
Singer’s more expensive service concerned collegiate athletics. Singer bribed college athletic recruiters and coaches to falsify student profiles, making his clients’ children appear to be competitive athletes when they were not. Singer paid the coaches for “consulting fees” or contributed to the school’s athletic department in return for coaches lying about prospective students. The FBI’s investigation implicates coaches or athletic staff from a host of top universities: Stanford, USC, UCLA, Georgetown, Wake Forest, UT-Austin, and Yale.
The parents involved, including actresses Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffman, have been charged with “conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud” for submitting fraudulent application information to the schools in question. Admissions officials, coaches, and the testing administrators involved in the alleged conspiracy have received more serious charges, including conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
This case will have serious repercussions for the college admissions world, particularly as it applies to admissions testing and athletic recruitment.