Saturday, May 15, 2021

Former TPG executive McGlashan pleads guilty in college admissions scam

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William McGlashan Jr., a San Francisco Bay Area financier accused of trying to buy his son’s admission into elite colleges, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of aiding and abetting wire and honest services fraud.

If a judge approves his plea agreement, McGlashan, a former executive at the private equity firm TPG, would spend three months in prison and pay a $250,000 fine. His lawyers declined to comment. A date for the plea hearing has not been set.

McGlashan would become the 30th parent to plead guilty in an investigation of corruption in the college admissions process brought by federal authorities in Boston. Nine more parents have pleaded not guilty, with trials tentatively scheduled for April and September of this year, and another parent was pardoned by former President Trump.

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In his plea agreement, filed Friday in a federal court in Boston, McGlashan admitted to a more narrow scope of criminal conduct than what prosecutors had alleged in a series of indictments. He acknowledged taking part in a scheme arranged by William “Rick” Singer, a Newport Beach college admissions consultant, to fix his son’s ACT entrance exam score.

According to an indictment, McGlashan, 57, a Mill Valley resident, flew with his son to Los Angeles, where the boy took his exams at a private school in West Hollywood whose administrator was on Singer’s payroll. Singer’s Harvard-educated accomplice, Mark Riddell, pretended to proctor the exam, then corrected the boy’s completed answers. McGlashan then transferred $50,000 to a charity Singer controlled.

Under the plea agreement, McGlashan will not plead guilty to a conspiracy charge, as other parents who’ve negotiated deals in the case have done. Instead, McGlashan admitted he aided and abetted the scheme when he sent his son’s fraudulent ACT score to Northeastern University in Boston.

While he acknowledged his role in rigging his son’s exams, McGlashan did not admit culpability in another scheme, one Singer dubbed “the side door.” Prosecutors had charged him with agreeing to pay Singer $250,000 to secure his son’s admission to USC by misrepresenting him as a talented football punter, which he was not.

When Singer requested a picture of his son so he could “Photoshop him onto a kicker,” McGlashan, according to court documents quoting the wiretapped conversation, replied, “Pretty funny. The way the world works these days is unbelievable.”

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Prosecutors argued that McGlashan only abandoned the plan when Singer, who began cooperating with the government in hopes of reducing his prison sentence, tipped the financier that he was under investigation.

But McGlashan’s attorneys have insisted he rejected Singer’s athletic recruiting scheme and instead tried to leverage his own connections at USC to help his son win admission.

They pointed in court filings to an interview in which Singer told agents for the FBI and IRS that McGlashan “would not be using the side door, but would be ‘going through his own connections.’” They also cited an email Singer wrote to Donna Heinel, then an administrator in USC’s athletics department and an alleged conspirator, saying McGlashan had “family ties” to influential people at USC and was “going that route” instead of a “side door” deal.

Ultimately, his son was included in a list of “VIPs” that USC compiled of applicants whose parents had either donated large amounts of money or were seen as likely to do so, McGlashan’s lawyers said in court documents.

The existence of such lists at USC was exposed by McGlashan’s codefendant, Robert Zangrillo, a Miami investor, whose lawyers filed in court dozens of emails, spreadsheets and other internal school documents that laid bare its commingling of admissions and fundraising. Zangrillo was pardoned by Trump on the last day of his administration.

McGlashan’s son withdrew his application before USC decided whether to admit him, the financier’s attorneys said in a court filing.

In his plea agreement, McGlashan did not admit taking part in any athletic recruiting scam, and the government agreed to drop three additional counts — conspiring to commit fraud, money laundering and bribery — as long as he pleads guilty to aiding and abetting the test-fixing scheme.

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McGlashan also retained his right to appeal a judge’s refusal last year to dismiss some counts relating to the test-rigging scheme.

His attorneys had argued the government’s theory — that McGlashan and other parents joined in a conspiracy to defraud standardized testing companies such as the ACT and the College Board of their property and of the honest service of their employees — was flawed, asserting that an accurate test score, earned through honest means, does not amount to property as the term is defined in federal mail and wire fraud statutes.

They also argued the testing companies could not have been cheated of their employees’ honest employment because test administrators, such as the one Singer bribed in West Hollywood, owed the companies no fiduciary duty.

If McGlashan appeals the ruling and prevails, he is allowed under the terms of his agreement to withdraw his guilty plea.

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