College Admissions, FBI, Federal Jurisdiction, Felicity Huffman, Operation Varsity Blue, Police Misbehavior, Scandal, The Law, Yale
The Hartford Courant pays special attention to the Yale angle.
The former womenâ€™s soccer coach at Yale University and a Greenwich lawyer are among 50 people who have been indicted in a vast college admissions scam the government says was carried out by unscrupulous college officials, a crooked admissions consultant and wealthy parents willing to pay bribes to get their children into some of the nationâ€™s top universities.
In a conspiracy engineered by California businessman William â€œRickâ€ Singer that extends from elite schools to celebrities and wealthy executives, parents spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million to guarantee their childrenâ€™s admissions to elite schools, said Andrew E. Lelling, the U.S. Attorney in Boston.
The college admissions system was rigged against students who worked hard, got good grades and engaged in community service who sought admission to elite colleges and universities, Lelling said Tuesday in announcing the indictments. The FBI called the investigation â€œOperation Varsity Bluesâ€ and said about 300 FBI and IRS agents arrested 46 people on Tuesday.
In addition to Yale soccer coach Rudy Meredith, 33 parents were indicted for their role in the scheme, Lelling said. They include the actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, CEOs, and others, such as Gordon R. Caplan of Greenwich, co-chairman of the global law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP in New York. Caplan has not responded to a request for comment.
â€œAll of them knowingly conspired with Singer and others to help their children either cheat on the ACT or Sat and or buy their childrenâ€™s admission to elite schools through fraud,â€ Lelling said.
â€œThere will not be a separate admissions system for the wealthy,” Lelling said. “And there will not be a separate criminal justice system either…â€œ
Bribes were paid and frauds committed to gain admission for students to colleges such as Boston University, Yale University, Boston College, Northeastern University, Georgetown University, the University of Southern California, the University of California San Diego, the University of California Los Angeles, Wake Forest University, Stanford University and the University of Texas at Austin.
Lelling said it would be up to the colleges and universities who were the victims of the alleged frauds to determine what, if anything, to do with the students admitted under what the government says were fraudulent circumstances.
The government called Singer, 58, of Newport Beach, Calif., the mastermind of the scheme. He ran a college counseling and preparation business called The Edge College and Career Network LLC, which was known as The Key, and the nonprofit Key Worldwide Foundation, which the government says was nothing more than a sham organization that laundered the millions Singerâ€™s company took in. Singer, who cooperated with federal agents during the investigation, was expected to plead guilty Tuesday to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering and other crimes.
In once instance, according to the court documents, Singer accepted a $1.2 million payment from a parent to secure a studentsâ€™ admission to Yale.
More parents could be indicted as the investigation continues. …
â€œAs the indictment makes clear, the Department of Justice believes that Yale has been the victim of a crime perpetrated by its former womenâ€™s soccer coach,â€ Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy said Tuesday. â€œThe university has cooperated fully in the investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case moves forward.â€
The government said it was tipped to the scheme while in the midst of an unrelated investigation.
There were three elements to the scheme: bribing SAT or ACT exam administrators to allow a person to secretly take the test in the place of a student, or to correct the studentâ€™s answers; pay bribes to university athletic coaches and administrators to have students admitted under the guise of being recruited as athletes, and using the facade of Singerâ€™s charitable foundation to launder money and pay bribes. Some would then deduct on their taxes payments made to the phony foundation.
Longtime Yale coach Rudy Meredith, who resigned in November, is accused of accepting a $400,000 check from the family of a Yale applicant he ensured would be admitted to the university as part of the womenâ€™s soccer team, according to court documents. Meredith, who is accused of working in concert with Singer, has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud, honest services wire fraud, and conspiracy and has been cooperating with the governmentâ€™s investigation since April 2018 with the hope of receiving leniency when he is sentenced, according to the government.
â€œBeginning in or about 2015, Meredith agreed with Singer and others known and unknown to the United States Attorney to accept bribes in exchange for designating applicants to Yale as recruits for the Yale womenâ€™s soccer team, and thereby facilitating their admission to the university, in violation of the duty of honest services he owed to Yale as his employer,” according to court documents.
The applicantâ€™s family paid Singer and his associated businesses about $1.2 million as part of the scheme, according to court documents.
That applicant did not play competitive soccer and Singer is accused of preparing a phony athletic profile to be used during the admissions process that made the student appear to be a co-captain of a prominent club soccer team in southern California.
Meredith agreed to secure a spot at Yale for another applicant in exchange for $450,000 from the applicantâ€™s father, according to court documents.
The two men are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud.
â€œThe corrupt behavior alleged by the Department of Justice is an affront to our universityâ€™s deeply held values of inclusion and fairness,â€ Yale President Peter Salovey wrote in a letter to the university community Tuesday. â€œI am committed to making certain the integrity of the admissions and athletic recruitment processes is not undermined again.â€
“As the investigation unfolds, the university may take further actions. I will work closely with our athletics director and dean of undergraduate admissions to make any necessary changes to protect the university from the kind of criminal behavior the Department of Justice described today,” Salovey said.
Meredith, who lived in Madison, resigned from Yale in November and said he was leaving to after 24 years â€œto explore new possibilities and begin a different chapter in my life.â€
Caplan, the Greenwich resident and lawyer in New York, is accused of paying Singer to help his daughter achieve a top score on the ACT, a college entrance exam, by having her purport to have a learning disability.
Caplan paid $75,000 last December to ensure that his daughter would get the desired score on the ACT, according to the indictment.
$1.2 million to get into Yale? All I can say is: Wow!
Donald Trump really ought to put a stop to unnecessary dawn arrests and unnecessary displays of federal force. This kind of thing is patently an abuse of authority.
Reading about this scandal for the first time yesterday afternoon, I was, like most of America, I expect, basically amused. Parental desperation and excessive ambition is really a theme for comedy. Everybody knows perfectly well, after all, that representatives of the Kennedy and other dynasties, however lacking in intellectual orientation and however delinquent, get automatic entrÃ©e into Harvard.
Everybody knows that standards for representatives of minority victim groups are dramatically lowered, while standards for model minority Asians are dramatically raised. Everybody knows that there will be a large thumb on the scale in favor of the scion of plutocrat alumnus that paid for the University’s new science laboratory.
Life is not entirely fair.
Of course, bribing soccer coaches and cheating on tests is obviously wrong, and a number of schools and national testing services ought to be embarrassed, but I have trouble myself seeing just where the FBI and the IRS come into this.
Have we really reached the state of affairs in which every piece of chicanery, every payoff, every case of cheating is a FEDERAL CRIME?
Felicity Huffman was arrested for “conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.” Singer and Meredith are accused of “wire fraud, honest services wire fraud, and conspiracy.” Are wire fraud and mail fraud different or exactly the same thing? Who knows? Where did the mail or the telephone or telegraph come into any of this anyway?
Are we supposed to assume that because Felicity Huffman’s daughter’s college application was mailed, or emailed, in, and Felicity paid for some cheating on her daughter’s tests, that made it mail or wire fraud and brought the whole affair under federal jurisdiction?
This sounds to me exactly like the cases of federal authority brought under the principle of federal jurisdiction over Navigable Waterways and applied to some guy’s backyard that has seasonal rain puddles.