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FBI college fraud investigation: the wildest stories from the college admissions inquiry



The college admissions scandal that began with a wide-ranging investigation of wealthy parents paying for fraudulently getting their kids into colleges and ended up with indictments against actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, among other things, has caused an uproar, and understandably so.

As I wrote on Tuesday:

The plot allegedly involved cheating on standardized testing exams like ACT and having the children of wealthy parents falsely designated as athletes – even paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to make coaches claim the children were

But the documentation provided by the government to provide legal backing for its investigation goes even further in showing just how baffling this alleged scheme was on virtually every level ̵

1; and, allegedly, how effective it was at getting the kids of rich parents into top schools.

As part of the case, FBI Special Agent Laura Smith created an affidavit in support of the government's complaint against the defendants, including Loughlin and Huffman. The document is roughly 200 pages long, with transcripts of conversations between the defendants and Rick Singer, the man at the center of the scandal who ran a for-profit college counseling business called Edge College & Career Network and a charity named Key Worldwide Foundation. The foundation was allegedly used to launder money and channel it from wealthy parents to college coaches, administrators and others, including Singer himself.

If we lived in a world of my own making, I'd have shared screenshots of whole pages from the document, which you can read yourself here. But here are the most telling (and nonsensical) passages detailing how a massive scam to get rich kids into top colleges worked and how often people who were supposed to benefit from it – the kids themselves – had no idea

"And it works "" Every Time. "

In the document, Smith features transcripts of conversations between" CW-1 "- short for" Cooperating Witness -1, "referring to Rick Singer – with fraud and other charges in the case.

(It's worth noting that many of the conversations between Singer and his clients that were included in this affidavit took place after Singer had pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and money laundering racketeering charges and began cooperating with the government. sentence, Singer then gave over reams of documentary and recorded phone calls with his clients.

The services Smith including including faking their children's SAT or ACT scores and creating fake athletic profiles and bribing college coaches to recruit them to their schools (and, in some cases, both). The pitch to parents from Singer, the affidavit explained, was that it always worked.

Take this conversation between Singer and defendant Gordon Caplan. In the transcript featured in the affidavit, Singer tells Caplan that his plan to submit fraudulent test scores on behalf of the children of wealthy parents – sometimes by having someone else take the test for the child, in other words by having the answers "corrected" by and the test of proctor whom Singer had paid – works "every time."


From the government's affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, March 12, 2019.

Repeatedly throughout the affidavit, transcripts and recordings show Singer selling his services by bragging about how many times it has worked before. Some parents have even referred to Singer by other parents who have been successful in getting their children into college because of his fraud.


From the government's affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, March 12, 2019.

During this conversation with the defendant Agustin Huneeus, a vineyard owner in California who wanted to get his daughter into the University of Southern California, Singer and Huneeus are discussing Singer's alleged plan to falsely portray Huneeus's daughter as a water polo player so she can attend USC as a recruited athlete.

When Huneeus makes clear that his daughter is not talented enough to play water polo at USC, Singer says that the coach – Jovan Vavic, winner of 16 national titles in the sport – already knows that. And when Huneeus asks if there is any chance "this thing blows up in my face," Singer responds that in 24 years, he's never run into a problem


From the government's affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, March 12, 2019.

Perhaps part of why Singer's alleged scheme proved to be a good time and time again because he attempted to make the fraudulent test scores and fake athletic profiles at least somewhat believable.

Take another excerpt from his conversation with Huneeus: The parent complains about whether his daughter's faked SAT score (and 1380 out of a possible 1600) could have been higher. Singer responds that she would not have been workable, adding, "I'd have been investigated for sure on her grades," alluding to the questions that may have arisen over an average student scoring a near-perfect score on the SAT .


In return for more than $ 50,000, according to the affidavit, Singer then faked an athletic profile for Huneeus's daughter, who portrayed her as the top water polo player , even including a photo that is not of her.


From the government's affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, March 12, 2019.

When Singer's foundation, which he allegedly used to fetch money from parents to the people he bribed to get kids into schools, was audited, it was Huneeus and asked him to make sure not to tell anyone about the extremely illegal fraud they are now accused of. Huneeus responded, "Dude, dude, what do you think, I'm a moron?" Before adding that he would tell the IRS that the donations he made were (ironically) to get underprivileged kids into college.


From the government's affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, March 12, 2019.

The scam was far-ranging

Administrators and coaches at many of the schools involved in the alleged scheme were deeply enmeshed within it. Take Donna Heinel, who was senior associate athletic director at USC until she was fired on Tuesday.

After Singer's team had created fake athletic profiles for students, Singer would then send those profiles to Heinel, who would present them to the subcommittee for athletic admissions as real recruited athletes.

Several of the transcripts included in the affidavit detail discussions between Singer and his clients as they tried to decide which sport they could fake their child being a top athlete in, like this conversation between Singer and the defendant William "Bill" McGlashan about whether his son would be a believable football kicker.


From the government's affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, March 12, 2019.

But, of course, none of the students who were portrayed as recruits so they could be admitted to USC were actually able to perform as athletes. In the case of the daughter of Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez, the affidavit notes that her application claimed she was a top club tennis player in high school, while in reality she was definitely not a top tennis player of any variety ever.


From the government's affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, March 12, 2019.


From the government's affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, March 12, 2019.

But Singer planned for that – and Heinel and others to help him.

Take this conversation for example, in which Singer speaks with Gamal Abdelaziz, and casino executive and Las Vegas resident who paid Singer hundreds of thousands of daughters to get his daughter into USC as a basketball player. Singer explains that while the admissions department at USC was beginning to ask questions about why his daughter was not showing up for basketball practice, Heinel told them that his daughter had a "injury" and would not be able to play. All Singer needed was for Abdelaziz to keep their stories straight.


The "side door"

The heart of the alleged scheme was Singer's concept of creating a "side door" for college admissions. In his conversations with Gordon Caplan, Singer explained that the "front door" to get into college was well academic and scored high on standardized tests, and "back door" was to endow a building or make a massive donation. He was introducing clients to the "side door" – a way for parents who were wealthy but not wealth-endowing wealthy to guarantee that their underachieving kids will attend the school of their choice.


From the government's affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, March 12, 2019.

Singer says: Only he and the "side door" can do what neither the "back door" nor the "front" door "can and guarantee that students are admitted to specific universities. As he says, "Everybody's got a friend of a friend, who knows someone who knows someone, but there's no guarantee, they're just gonna give you a second look. My family want a guarantee. "

According to the authorities, Singer promised parents that their children would get into the school of their choice and that only he could back that promise – through mistreatment, fraud, money laundering, and fake test

Throughout the affidavit, the transcripts of Singer's conversations seem to show that in some cases, students helped their parents either with getting someone else to take their SAT or ACT exam, or creating fake photos of themselves playing a sport so that they can submit those fake athletic profiles to colleges.

Take defendant Devin Sloane, for example, who allegedly worked with his son to create just the right photo of his "playing" water polo with props purchased from Amazon so that Singer could create a fake athlete profile to send to Heinel at USC .


But in other cases featured, the students in question seemingly had no idea that the scores they would eventually receive on ACT or SAT were not theirs . In his conversation with Caplan, for example, Singer says his daughter "will not even know that it happened" and adds that that system is ideal for kids: "That's the way you want it. They feel good about themselves. "


From the government's affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, March 12, 2019.

When Caplan says that he feels a bit strange about the alleged plan – which involved misusing accommodation reserved for students with learning disabilities to give Singer's clients extra time on SAT and ACT, making it easier for someone else to take the test – Singer tells him that "all wealthy families" do it. It might feel weird and immoral, he basically says, but it will not matter once Caplan's daughter gets that top score.


From the government's affidavit supporting a criminal complaint, March 12, 2019.

But Caplan's daughter did not seem to know about this alleged plan. As the affidavit shows, she took the ACT. In a conversation with Caplan, Singer describes the plan as follows: "So she's going to take the test on her own, she's going to do her best, all that stuff, and then we're going to do our magic on the back end "In other words, Caplan's daughter was supposed to take the ACT, fully believing that the score she received was hers – but it was not.


In another conversation with Huneeus, the client who got angry with Singer over his daughter's (fake) SAT score, Huneeus refers to another Singer client, Bill McGlashan , and asks whether or not McGlashan's son knows that his ACT score was fraudulent.

Singer tells Huneeus that his son does not know – by his father's request. "[McGlashan] has not been forthcoming with you, and with his own kid, which is – he wants it that way."


So what have we learned from this criminal complaint?

That parents who took part in this alleged scheme seemed to be well aware of the fact that they were committed to massaging their children into their choice schools (or in the case of Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli's daughter, any school besides Arizona State University). That at least one university administrator and several coaches are accused of accepting bribes to fetch children into their school. While some parents seem to have worked with their children to fake photographs for fake athletic profiles that would be submitted to universities where bribed coaches would use them to get those children admitted, other parents seemingly kept their children in the dark about faking their ACT or SAT scores.

And we've learned that while the world of college admissions is often dark and confusing, in this case, it was just plain baffling.


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