Justice Department indicts fifty people in nationwide college admissions bribery scandal

by Kathy Fang, Nicole Chen, and Arushi Saxena

The Justice Department indicted fifty people yesterday for involvement in a nationwide conspiracy to commit fraud in order to secure spots at elite universities as recruited athletes and to falsify college entrance test exam scores, according to documents released Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Massachusetts.

Cases in the indictment include bribes to test administrators to facilitate cheating, false reports of a learning disability in order to obtain extended time on standardized tests, falsified athletic profiles and honors for students and bribes to athletics directors and coaches at universities to accept students as fake athletics recruits.

The leader of the scheme has been identified as William “Rick” Singer – the founder of the Key Worldwide Foundation, a college preparatory nonprofit established as a professed charity – who received over $25 million from parents from 2011 until February 2019. He pleaded guilty in Boston on Tuesday to charges of racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice, while the 50 defendants are being charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, honest services fraud or racketeering.

Singer accepted bribes under the guise of charity donations and described his college admission scheme as a “side door.” He was also charged with tax fraud, and starting from 2013, he allegedly enabled clients to deduct the bribes that they paid from their income taxes.

Among those indicted are 33 parents, including eight families from the Bay Area; two test administrators for College Board and ACT; actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman; and coaches and athletics directors at Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California (USC), Georgetown University, Wake Forest University, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin).

Of the colleges implicated, several have issued press statements or sent emails to the school community following the release of the charges.

“USC has not been accused of any wrongdoing and will continue to cooperate fully with the government’s investigation,” a USC press statement released Tuesday reads. “USC is in the process of identifying any funds received by the university in connection with this alleged scheme. Additionally, the university is reviewing its admissions processes broadly to ensure that such actions do not occur going forward.”

This is a developing story. Check back on Harker Aquila for further updates.