There's a new Billy McFarland in town, and his name is William Singer. Today, news broke of a $25 million (£19 million) nationwide US college-acceptance fraud scandal, implicating at least 33 parents (among them, Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, and prominent real estate investors and CEOs); nine coaches at Yale, Stanford, USC, Wake Forest, and Georgetown; two exam administrators; one exam proctor; one college administrator; and three people who organised the operation.
At the centre of the scandal is William Singer, founder of a college-prep business called The Key, who took millions of dollars from his clients to get their children admitted to elite colleges by falsely positioning them as competitive athletic recruits and paying test administrators to fake their test scores. So far, Singer has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud U.S., and obstruction of justice.
In a press conference held at the U.S. Attorney's Office this morning at 11 a.m. ET, details of the extreme lengths Singer went to to secure student admission were revealed — including the Photoshopping of students' faces on athletes' bodies and arranging for students to take the SAT or ACT individually with the administrators he bribed.
The Key Worldwide Foundation was nothing more than a front to launder money from parents, which Singer doled out to administrators as bribes. Parents would pay between $15,000 and $75,000 for someone else to take the SAT or ACT for their child, or to correct their child's answers afterward. Additionally, Singer would allegedly facilitate meetings with therapists in order to get additional time for students (presumably by obtaining diagnoses of disability), the goal being to generate test scores that were impressive and yet realistic — not too out of the park to invite extra scrutiny.
Singer also bribed coaches to admit students they knew were not athletes. According to the press conference, the head women's soccer coach at Yale got $400,000 to accept an applicant who didn’t even play soccer, and Singer walked away with $1.2 million. Once admitted non-athletes got to school, they either didn't show up for the athletics, feigned injury, or played briefly before quitting.
According to U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling, most clients paid Singer between $250,000 and $450,000 per student — and some paid him as much as $6.5 million for his services.
This scheme, which the FBI coined "Operation Varsity Blues," has been ongoing since 2011, and the investigation has been in the works for over a year. So far there has been no evidence found that any of the schools themselves were involved, and none of the students have been charged either.