Hypocrisy, privilege and bribes: Celebrities caught in college admissions fraud scandal

Brenda Watkins
March 13, 2019

The United States Attorney's office in Boston announced charges against dozens of people accused in a nationwide college admissions scheme, including Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, of "Full House" fame. Singer was paid $100,000 to $6.5 million by parents to engage in the scam, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors say parents paid a college test prep organization to help students cheat, either by having stand-ins take the tests for the teenagers, or by arranging for proctors to correct answers.

William "Rick" Singer, 58, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges related to running the scheme through his Edge College & Career Network, which charged from $100,000 to as much as $2.5m per child for the services, which were masked as contributions to a fake charity Singer runs.

The college admissions bribery scandal that shook the country Tuesday morning has sent tremors everywhere from test prep centers, standardized testing administrators, college athletics coaches, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, the Ivy League, college admission offices and, of course, social media.

According to The New York Times, Singer paid more than $25 million through his Key Foundation in bribes to administrators over the last eight years to guarantee admission to students.

Singer also helped parents stage photographs of their children playing sports or even Photoshopped children's faces onto images of athletes downloaded from the internet to exaggerate their athletic credentials. And at U.S.C., Donna Heinel, a top athletic director, and Jovan Vavic, the men's and women's water polo coach, were terminated.

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Loughlin appeared in the sitcom Full House, and Huffman starred in Desperate Housewives. UCLA suspended its soccer coach, and Wake Forest did the same with its volleyball coach.

The charging documents, unsealed in Boston federal court, are more than 200 pages long. Neither of Loughlin's daughters participated in crew.

The payment to KWF, which was set up by accused scam ringleader William Singer, was allegedly made to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of their eldest daughter Sofia Grace Macy. Court document allege the couple paid $500,000 to have their two daughters labeled as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team, even though neither is a rower.

Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation recorded Macy discussing doing the same for his second daughter, Georgia Grace, the couple ultimately decided against doing so.

Huffman was one of 13 people, including actress Lori Loughlin, taken into custody Tuesday in Los Angeles and Macy attended his wife's initial court appearance. A spokeswoman for Loughlin had no comment.

Prosecutors said it was up to the universities to decide what to do with students admitted through cheating. "Ms. Heinel received more than $1.3 million in bribes and Mr. Vavic about $250,000 according to federal prosecutors". A false athletic profile created for the student said she had been on China's junior national development soccer team. "I do not see the difference between getting a kid into school by bribing the Building Committee, and by bribing someone else".

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