William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind behind one of the largest and most successful college admissions cheating schemes ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), on Tuesday pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.
As a part of his guilty plea, Singer will pay at least $3.4 million to the federal, government.
Arrested along with Singer by federal authorities were dozens of people involved in the scheme to help wealthy Americans and Hollywood celebrities such as Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin commit fraud. Singer allegedly accepted bribes totaling $25 million from parents between 2011 and 2018 “to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools,” said Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts.
In total, 50 people (including more than 30 parents and nine coaches) were charged Tuesday in the scheme.
Singer ran the operation through his for-profit college prep business, Edge College & Career Network (also known as “The Key), which charged from $100,000 to as much as $2.5 million per child for its services. The scheme relied on bribes to coaches, ACT and SAT administrators and phony test takers. It even photoshopped images misrepresenting non-athletic applicants as more athletic to gain admissions for the children of rich parents.
In the charging documents, the DOJ said Singer “facilitated cheating on the SAT and ACT exams for his clients by instructing them to seek extended time for their children on college entrance exams, which included having the children purport to have learning disabilities in order to obtain the required medical documentation.”
Prosecutors said that for over 10 years, The Key also bribed school coaches and administrators into accepting the children of its clients were athletic recruits to ensure their admission into top tier colleges.
“I was essentially buying or bribing the coaches for a spot,” said Singer. “And that occurred very frequently.”
Those indicted in the investigation were snared under a sting called “Operation Varsity Blues.” These persons allegedly paid bribes of up to $6.5 million to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, said federal prosecutors.
“This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud,” said Lelling. “There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy and, I’ll add, there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.”
Lelling said Singer would accommodate what parents wanted him to do.
“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” said Lelling. “For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.”