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Operation Varsity Blues: 5 things to know about the college cheating scandal

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2019 @ 12:54 PM

Dozens Indicted in College Admissions Bribery Case

U.S. federal prosecutors announced Tuesday that they have charged 50 people in a scheme aimed at helping wealthy individuals buy their children’s way into elite colleges across the country.

>> Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin among several charged in nationwide college admissions cheating scam

According to federal prosecutors, William “Rick” Singer, 58, was arrested on suspicion of running a racketeering scheme using a scam charity he created.

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According to court documents, 33 parents were charged in the scheme. Felicity Huffman, an Oscar-nominated actress best known for her role on the television show “Desperate Housewives,” and actress Lori Loughlin, who starred in “Full House,” were among the parents charged with paying Singer to get their children into college.

No students were charged in the investigation

Here is what to know about the scheme:

  1. Prosecutors said Singer’s operation arranged for people to take college admissions exams in place of his clients’ children by bribing college entrance exam administrators to help with cheating on admission tests. The charging documents also say Singer created false sports backgrounds for the students to make them appear to be eligible for admission to college as an elite athlete. Some students were recruited to colleges for sports they never played.
  2. In addition to cheating on exams and lying about the athletic skills of his client’s children, Singer bribed college admission officials and coaches at colleges across the country, prosecutors said.
  3. Colleges Singer targeted for the scam include the University of Southern California, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, Georgetown, Yale University, Stanford University and UCLA. Prosecutors say the schools in general, were not involved with the scam, but coaches at some of these schools were part of the scheme.
  4. Parents paid Singer more than $25 million through the Edge College & Career Network – a fake charity Singer created.
  5. Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were charged with paying $500,000 in bribes so their two daughters would be designated as recruits for the USC crew team. Huffman allegedly paid to have someone take her child’s college admission test. 

Here is the charging document prosecutors filed Tuesday:

'Operation Varsity Blue... by on Scribd

'Operation Varsity Blue... by on Scribd

'Operation Varsity Blue... by on Scribd

'Operation Varsity Blue... by on Scribd

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(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on March 12, 2019 shows US actress Felicity Huffman(L) attending the Showtime Emmy Eve Nominees Celebration in Los Angeles on September 16, 2018 and actress Lori Loughlin arriving at the People's Choice Awards 2017 at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, California, on January 18, 2017. - Two Hollywood actresses including Oscar-nominated 'Desperate Housewives' star Felicity Huffman are among 50 people indicted in a nationwide university admissions scam, court records unsealed in Boston on March 12, 2019 showed. The accused, who also include chief executives, allegedly cheated to get their children into elite schools, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said.Huffman, 56, and Lori Loughlin, 54, who starred in 'Full House,' are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.  ((Photos by LISA O'CONNOR and Tommaso Boddi / AFP) (Photo credit should read LISA O'CONNOR,TOMMASO BODDI/AFP/Getty Images))