Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of the college admissions scandal, which has dominated headlines and seen multiple people charged – including actors Felicity Huffman (who has pleaded guilty) and Lori Loughlin – with everything from conspiracy to commit fraud to money laundering.
William Singer, the founder of a college prep business called The Key, accepted millions of dollars from individuals to get their children into elite universities such as Yale and the University of Southern California. He has since pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges.
And, Singer also apparently misled at least one family about the process of getting into Yale, and subsequently charged them $1.2 million for his criminal services, according to new report from the New York Times.
The family was described in court documents as having paid Singer $1.2 million in connection with their daughter’s application to Yale. Prosecutors said that the daughter, whom they called Yale Applicant 1 in court documents, was admitted to the university as a recruit for the women’s soccer team — and of course she was not a competitive soccer player.
On Friday, Yale Applicant 1 was identified by the Wall Street Journal as Sherry Guo, a young woman from China who was a freshman at Yale until last month.
And, according to the WSJ, families from China paid the most in the cheating scandal.
According to Guo’s lawyer, James Spertus, the young woman and her parents did not know the payment was going to be used for a bribe. The parents reportedly do not speak English, never had direct contact with Singer, and the report alleges that that Guo was “naive” about the American college admissions process.
Guo and her family were introduced to Singer in 2017 by a financial adviser based in Los Angeles, where Guo was attending high school. Someone at the financial adviser’s office contacted Singer, stating that “Yale Applicant 1’s father wished to make a ‘donation’ to ‘one of those top schools for his daughter’s ‘application,’” the charging documents said.
Singer reportedly sent Guo’s resume and information directly to Rudolph Meredith, the former women’s soccer coach at Yale (who has pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges), including a revision removing her art portfolio and adding an athletic profile that falsely claimed that the young woman was the co-captain of a soccer team in Southern California. Meredith named her as a recruit for the Yale soccer team.
“She is now devastated because she is no longer in college, period,” said the attorney, who also claims that the large size of the payment seems to suggest that Singer was exploiting the family and their lack of knowledge about the college process in the U.S.
“The amount alone shows that he was preying on the Chinese community,” he told the Times, claiming the family thought the money was for a donation. “They did not know that he was going to use that money for a bribe. There is no evidence of that whatsoever.”