BOSTON (AP) — The mastermind of the nationwide college admissions bribery scandal is set to be sentenced Wednesday after he helped authorities secure convictions for scores of wealthy parents involved in his scheme to rig the process. of selection in leading schools.
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Federal prosecutors are asking for six years behind bars for Rick Singer, who for more than a decade helped deep-pocketed parents sneak their often unworthy children into some of the nation’s most selective schools with fake test scores and sports qualifications.
The scandal has embarrassed elite universities across the country, shed light on the secret admissions system already seen as rigged in favor of the wealthy and laid bare the steps some parents will take to get their children into the school of their choice.
Singer, 62, began secretly cooperating with investigators and worked with the FBI to record hundreds of phone calls and meetings before dozens of parents and sports coaches were arrested in March 2019. More than 50 People – including popular television actresses and prominent businessmen – were eventually convicted in the case authorities dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.
In the nearly four years since the scandal exploded into newspaper headlines, Singer has remained out of jail and largely kept quiet publicly. He was never called as a witness by prosecutors in the cases that went to trial, but he will have the opportunity to address the court before the judge hands down his sentence in federal court in Boston.
In a letter to the judge, Singer blamed his actions on his “win at all costs” attitude, which he said was caused in part by repressed childhood trauma. His lawyer asks for three years of probation, or if the judge deems it necessary, six months behind bars.
“By ignoring what was morally, ethically, and legally right to win what I perceived to be the college admissions ‘game,’ I lost everything,” Singer wrote.
Singer pleaded guilty in 2019 — the same day the massive case became public — to racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy charges. Dozens more eventually pleaded guilty to the charges, while two parents were convicted at trial.
Boston authorities began investigating the scheme after an executive under scrutiny for an unrelated securities fraud scheme told investigators that a Yale football coach had offered to help his daughter get into school in exchange for money. The Yale coach led authorities to Singer, whose cooperation unraveled the sprawling scandal.
For years, Singer paid administrators or entrance exam proctors to inflate students’ test scores and bribed coaches to designate candidates as recruits for sports they sometimes didn’t even practice, seeking to raise their chances of going to school. Prosecutors say Singer received more than $25 million from his clients, paid kickbacks totaling more than $7 million, and used more than $15 million of his clients’ money for his own benefit.
“He was the architect and mastermind of a criminal enterprise that massively corrupted the integrity of the college admissions process – which already favors those with wealth and privilege – to a degree never seen before. in this country,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.
If the judge agrees with prosecutors, it would be by far the longest sentence handed down in the case. The toughest sentence so far has been handed down to former Georgetown University tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who was sentenced to 2½ years in prison for pocketing more than $3million bribes.
Others caught up in the scandal included ‘Full House’ actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli and ‘Desperate Housewives’ star Felicity Huffman. Sentences for parents range from probation to 15 months behind bars, although the parent who received this prison sentence remains free while they appeal their sentence.
A parent, who was not charged with working with Singer, was acquitted of all charges stemming from allegations that he bribed Ernst to get his daughter into school. And a judge has ordered a new trial for former University of Southern California water polo player Jovan Vavic, who was found guilty of taking bribes.
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