College coaches, others charged in nationwide admissions bribery scandal

BOSTON — College coaches, Hollywood actresses and prominent business owners are being indicted in connection to a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal.

Nearly 40 people involved in the college admissions scam, many of whom are renown celebrities and influential business owners, were arrested Tuesday morning and charged in federal court in Boston.

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. It also involved bribing ACT and SAT administrators to allow someone else, typically Mark Riddell, a counselor at a private school in Bradenton, Florida, to either take the test in place of students or to correct students' answers once they had taken the exam.

It is also highlighted that some of the defendants went as far as falsifying athletic profiles in order to make their children look like successful athletes.

The racketeering conspiracy charges were brought against coaches at schools including Wake Forest, Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.

According to U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling, the 33 parents named in the indictment spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million to secure admissions to elite schools for their children.

Casey Near, executive director of counseling at Collegewise, believes the nationwide scheme funded by rich parents is proof of a broken and at times, unfair system.

"No one is surprised by the level of privilege that exists," Near said.

"You are surprised at the levels that people will go to, the depths people will go to. to exercise that privilege and the lengths in which these systems buckled in the face of it," Near said.

"At the same time kids who need fee waivers or have actually documented learning differences and are trying and waiting on the college board line for four hours can’t get through, but this can happen," she said.

The indictment claims the crimes were committed between 2011 and 2019.

"Desperate Housewives" actress Felicity Huffman and "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin are among many charged in connection to the nationwide scandal involving bribing school officials in exchange for college admissions for students and cheating on entrance exams.

Court documents said Huffman paid $15,000 that she disguised as a charitable donation, so her daughter could partake in the college entrance cheating scam.

Court papers said a cooperating witness met with Huffman and her husband, actor William H. Macy, at their Los Angeles home and explained the scam to them. The cooperator told investigators that Huffman and her spouse "agreed to the plan."

Messages seeking comment with representatives for Huffman and Loughlin were not immediately returned.

"There will not be a separate admissions system for the wealthy," said U.S. Attorney Lelling. "And there will not be a separate criminal justice system either."

The scandal has been called "Operation Varsity Blues".

Lelling said it was the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

Rudolph "Rudy" Meredith, the head coach for the Yale women's soccer team, has been indicted on two counts of wire fraud for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for admitting students to Yale as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities.

According to a federal indictment, Meredith allegedly worked with Wiliam Rick Singer, 58, a California businessman, and others in retaining clients willing to bribe university coaches and administrators in order to admit their children to prestigious universities.

Singer is the co-founder of a for-profit college counseling and preparation business called "The Key" founded in 2007.

The "Key Worldwide Foundation" (KWF) was a non-profit corporation established around 2012 as one of Singer's purported charities, and in 2013 KWF was approved as a 501(c)(3), meaning it was exempt from paying federal taxes.

The indictment alleges Meredith and Singer concealed the payments by funneling them through the KWF charitable accounts.

Singer was charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice. He is accused of conspiring with dozens of parents, athletic coaches, a university athletics administrator, and others, to use bribery and other forms of fraud to admit dozens of students to multiple colleges and universities between 2011 and 2019.

Meredith has served as the head coach for the Yale women's soccer team from 1995 to Nov. 2018.

Also charged are John Vandemoer, the head sailing coach at Stanford University and Mark Riddell, a counselor at a private school in Bradenton, Florida.

Authorities said coaches in such sports as soccer, tennis and volleyball accepted bribes to put students on lists of recruited athletes, regardless of their ability or experience. Two ACT and SAT test administrators have been charged in connection to the scheme as well.

The bribes allegedly came through an admissions consulting company in Newport Beach, California. Authorities said parents paid the founder of the Edge College & Career Network approximately $25 million to get their children into college.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.