Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Parents sentenced to jail in the college admission bribery scandal

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Seven parents who cheated their kids’ way into elite universities through a massive college admissions scandal are heading to prison for weeks- or months-long sentences.

Their crimes were revealed in March, when the federal government unveiled an investigation into what they called “Operation Varsity Blues,” a surreal scandal wherein 52 wealthy people and celebrities allegedly schemed to bribe or lie kids’ ways into colleges — in many cases, schools they were grossly unqualified for.

Parents sometimes paid to stage photos of their kids playing sports so they could be tapped as university athletic recruits. In some instances, pictures of their faces were even plainly photoshopped onto actual athletes’ bodies.

Of the 52 people named in a federal indictment, 35 were parents, many of whom have since said they were acting out of anxiety and fear for their kids’ futures. Through the scheme, parents paid to falsify college entrance exams or athletic abilities.

Since the scandal broke, seven parents have been sentenced to prison time by U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani in Boston. Most recently, Gregory and Marcia Abbott were ordered to prison for a month for paying $125,000 to fake their daughter’s test scores.

Talwani is expected to sentence another six parents over the next month. (In all, only 24 defendants, including 15 parents, have pleaded guilty to the crimes they’re accused of, which often include conspiracy and mail fraud charges.) Some of the more high-profile parents allegedly involved in the scheme, including actress Lori Loughlin, have pleaded not guilty and will face trial instead.

Here are where the parent sentencings stand:

Felicity Huffman

Huffman, most widely known for her role in “Desperate Housewives,” was sentenced to 14 days in prison on Sept. 13 for paying $15,000 to have her eldest daughter’s SAT scores manipulated by Rick Singer, the person considered to be the scheme’s mastermind.

(Singer has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, fraud charges, and obstruction of justice. Three of the college coaches he collaborated with to forge athletic records have also pleaded guilty.)
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Huffman will also have to pay $30,000 in fines and undergo one year of supervised release.

She was the first among the 34 parents involved to be sentenced, and apologized for her actions in a letter she penned to the judge ahead of her sentencing.

Devin Sloane

A week and a half after Huffman’s sentencing, Devin Sloane, a Los Angeles-based business executive for a water treatment company, received a far heftier sentence of four months in prison, 500 hours of community service and a $95,000 fine. He was accused of paying $250,000 to Singer and University of Southern California Women’s Athletics to mask his son as an accomplished water polo recruit. His son, who did not play water polo at all, was admitted.

Stephen Semprevivo

Semprevivo, an executive based out of Los Angeles, was sentenced to four months in prison, two years of supervised release, 500 hours of community service, and $100,000 in fines in late September. He was accused of paying $400,000 to falsely flag his son as a tennis recruit to Georgetown University.

After Semprevivo’s crimes came to light, his son sued Georgetown in May to prevent the elite university from expelling him. The lawsuit was later withdrawn.

Gordon Caplan

Caplan, a prominent New York attorney, was sentenced last week to one month in prison after paying $75,000 to Singer to fraudulently boost his daughter’s ACT score. He’ll also have to pay a $50,000 fine and complete one year of supervised release and 250 hours of community service.

Caplan apologized for engaging in the scheme in April. His daughter, who is still in high school, was not aware of his efforts to cheat on her test, he said.

Agustin Huneeus

Huneeus, a vineyard owner in Napa Valley, took part in both schemes — faking athletic abilities and test scores — in an attempt to get his daughter into a good college. Last week, he was sentenced to five months in prison and a $100,000 fine. It was the college admissions scandal’s harshest sentence yet. He’ll also have to complete 500 hours of community service and two years of court supervision.

Huneeus paid Singer $300,000 to fake his daughter’s scores and label her as a water polo athlete to make her more attractive to the University of Southern California. She did not get into the university in the end, and she was allegedly aware of the misconduct.

Gregory and Marcia Abbott

Working together, the Abbotts paid $125,000 to fudge their daughter’s entrance exams to Duke University and were sentenced Tuesday to one month in prison, each. They’ll also each have to pay a $45,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service.

Gregory Abbott founded a packaging company; Marcia Abbott was a magazine editor and writer. The couple split their time between Aspen and New York City.

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