WASHINGTON. — Celebrity parents, coaches and test administrators were among 50 people charged Tuesday in a nationwide college admissions cheating and recruitment scheme that sought to help applicants win admission to elite universities including Yale, Stanford, UCLA, Georgetown and University of Texas.
According to the indictment, the conspiracy involved bribing university athletic coaches and administrators in admitting students under the guise of being recruited as student-athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, or even, prosecutors said, when they didn’t play the sport at all. Some of the defendants went as far as falsifying athletic profiles in order to make their children look like successful athletes.
It also involved hiring ringers to take college entrance exams for students or bribing insiders at testing centres to correct students’ answers. “These parents are a catalogue of wealth and privilege,” US Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the results of the investigation.
At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents, many of them prominent in law, finance, fashion and other fields, were charged. “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman and “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin were among those charged in the nationwide scandal. Prosecutors said those parents paid from US$100,000 to US$6.5 million in bribes, with most payments around US$200,000.
In all, the prosecutors said clients paid US$25 million in bribes to coaches and college administrators from 2011 to 2019. The defendants disguised the nature and source of the bribe payments by funnelling the money through the accounts of a purported charity, from which many of the bribes were then paid, prosecutors said.
At the centre of the scheme is a Newport Beach, California-based company called Edge College & Career Network, which was run by William “Rick” Singer. All the parents’ bribes came through this company to coaches and administrators who falsely make their children look like star athletes to boost their chances of getting accepted. A number of colleges responded quickly to fire or suspend the coaches who have been charged, portraying themselves as victims. “Integrity in admissions is vital to the academic and ethical standards of our university,” the University of Texas said in a statement.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) also released a statement, saying it will look into claims made against college coaches and administrators in the admissions bribery scandal. “The charges brought forth today are troubling and should be a concern for all of higher education,” the NCAA said in the statement. – Xinhua