Hollywood actresses, college administrators arrested in huge US college admissions scandal - Times of India

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WASHINGTON: Nearly 50 people including two Hollywood actresses, college administrators, and sports coaches have been taken into custody by authorities following a stunning college admissions scam that rocked the United States on Tuesday.

In what is being described as the largest academic scandal ever prosecuted by the US Department of Justice, more than 300 FBI and IRS agents participated in an operation dubbed “Varsity Blues” that resulted in the arrests on charges of bribery and corruption of intermediaries and parents who bought admissions to their children in elite schools such as Stanford, Yale, and Georgetown universities.

Among those named in the scandal are actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.

While the rich buying their children admissions in elite schools is not exactly news in the US (President Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner have been scrutinized and pilloried over their passage to Wharton and Harvard respectively), what is different in this case is the cheating, bribery, and falsification involved.

"We're not talking about donating a building so that a school's more likely to take you son or daughter. We're talking about deception and fraud,” FBI officials who were briefing the media in Boston at the time of writing this said, outlining a scheme where parents went to the extent of paying proxies to write tests on behalf of their wards.

Also charged are several college athletic coaches and SAT/ACT administrators who faked qualifications and marks for children of wealthy families so they could walk into elite schools. In all, the suspects allegedly paid bribes of up to $25 million to get their kids into top-ranked colleges.

The scheme, in some instances, involved parents paying William Singer, the founder of a college prep business in California, to have someone take the SAT or ACT for their children, according to authorities.

Among those accused are actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who allegedly paid $500,000 to intermediaries at the University of Southern California to have their two daughters designated as recruits to the college's crew team — even though they did not participate in crew — thereby guaranteeing their admission in the college, according to documents.

Also charged is John Vandemoer, the head sailing coach at Stanford University, Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, the former head soccer coach at Yale University, and Mark Riddell, a counselor at a private school in Bradenton, Florida.



According to the Justice Department, The conspiracy involved 1) bribing SAT and ACT exam administrators to allow a test taker, typically Riddell, to secretly take college entrance exams in place of students or to correct the students’ answers after they had taken the exam; 2) bribing university athletic coaches and administrators—including coaches at Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Southern California, and the University of Texas—to facilitate the admission of students to elite universities under the guise of being recruited as athletes; and (3) using the façade of Singer’s charitable organization to conceal the nature and source of the bribes.

According to the charging documents, Singer, the college prep business founder, facilitated cheating on the SAT and ACT exams for his clients by instructing them to seek extended time for their children on college entrance exams, which included having the children purport to have learning disabilities in order to obtain the required medical documentation. Once the extended time was granted, Singer allegedly instructed the clients to change the location of the exams to one of two test centers: a public high school in Houston, Texas, or a private college preparatory school in West Hollywood, Calif.

At those test centers, Singer had established relationships with test administrators Niki Williams and Igor Dvorskiy, respectively, who accepted bribes of as much as $10,000 per test in order to facilitate the cheating scheme. Specifically, Williams and Dvorskiy allowed a third individual, typically Riddell, to take the exams in place of the students, to give the students the correct answers during the exams, or to correct the students’ answers after they completed the exams. Singer typically paid Ridell $10,000 for each student’s test.

Singer’s clients paid him between $15,000 and $75,000 per test, with the payments structured as purported donations to the charity. In many instances, the students taking the exams were unaware that their parents had arranged for the cheating.

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