Morrie Tobin, the Los Angeles financier who tipped federal authorities in Boston to William “Rick” Singer’s college admissions scam, was sentenced Wednesday to a year and a day in prison for selling stock at fraudulently inflated prices to unwitting investors, robbing them of millions.
U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton acknowledged Tobin’s “extraordinary” cooperation in helping unravel both his own securities fraud and “the infamous college admissions case,” but he said he could not allow a felon who has admitted trying to fleece investors of $15 million to avoid prison.
“Your motive was pure and simple greed,” Gorton told him.
He ordered Tobin, 57, to report to prison by Sept. 23. Before he was sentenced, Tobin told the judge he was “extremely, sincerely sorry and ashamed” of his crimes and said he had since tried “to do everything possible to make amends.”
In March 2018, after federal agents searched his mansion in Hancock Park, Tobin flew to Boston to meet with the prosecutors and FBI agents who had unraveled his stock scam. During a “multiday proffer,” a prosecutor said in court, he told them about another fraud entirely: Tobin was bribing a Yale soccer coach to endorse his daughter’s admission to the Ivy League school.
Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston have not publicly identified the person who tipped them to the college admissions fraud, referring to him in court only as “Individual A,” but law enforcement officials told The Times when the case was unsealed that Tobin was the cooperator who set the investigation in motion.
Though Gorton discussed Tobin’s cooperation on Wednesday off the record with his attorney, Brian T. Kelly, and Eric Rosen, an assistant U.S. attorney, Kelly said in open court that his client had “honestly told the government about the corrupt Yale soccer coach.”
Tobin returned to Boston to meet the soccer coach, Rudy Meredith, and in a hotel room wired with hidden video cameras, Meredith was recorded agreeing to a $450,000 bribe and taking $2,000 in cash, Rosen said during Meredith’s plea hearing.
During the rendezvous, Meredith mentioned a name investigators hadn’t heard before, Rosen said: Rick Singer.
Investigators obtained Meredith’s bank records, which showed that Singer, a Newport Beach college admissions consultant with a roster of wealthy and famous clients, had paid the coach $860,000 in the last three years. Confronted by this evidence and the recording from the hotel room sting, Meredith agreed to cooperate and started calling Singer on a recorded line.
“We had learned through the recorded telephone calls that this obviously was not related to a single bribe paid to a single coach,” Rosen said in court, “but rather a scheme, a scheme to defraud the universities of the honest services of their employees.”
The case exploded into public view in March 2019. Thirty-three of Singer’s clients were charged with felonies, including the Hollywood celebrities Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, whose arrests turbocharged the tabloids for months. Coaches at some of the country’s most prestigious schools — Stanford, Georgetown, USC and UCLA, among others — were implicated in Singer’s scheme.
Asked how the investigation began, Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney in Boston, told a room packed with reporters: “Our first lead in this came during interviews with a target of an entirely separate investigation, who gave us a tip that this activity might be going on.”
Two weeks earlier, Tobin had pleaded guilty in a Boston courtroom to securities fraud. He listened as Rosen, the prosecutor, explained how a trading platform controlled by one of Tobin’s conspirators sold millions in fraudulently overpriced stocks to investors.
“Do you disagree with anything that he says the government would be able to prove?” Gorton asked.
“No, your honor,” Tobin replied.
Attorneys for the government and Tobin recommended that he be spared prison and punished with probation, a $4 million forfeiture and community service. His lawyers, Kelly and Charles Dell’Anno, made their arguments in a memo that was heavily redacted to obscure his “confidential substantial assistance efforts relating to other criminal investigations,” among other sensitive topics.
In the memo, they said Tobin grew up playing hockey in Montreal, then played for one year at the Northwood School in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he captained the team as a “a highly respected student leader.”
Tobin played hockey for Yale before transferring to the University of Vermont. After graduation, he briefly played semiprofessional hockey in Europe, his lawyers wrote. Virtually all other biographical details are redacted in the memo.
His lawyers acknowledged the stock fraud he engineered was “a serious crime.” Yet it was his first and only encounter with law enforcement, they wrote, and “since February 2018, Mr. Tobin has done what he can to accept responsibility and move forward.”
Last month, Variety reported, Tobin listed his eight-bedroom, 10-bathroom Hancock Park mansion for $13.5 million.