The national college admissions bribery scheme’s mastermind, who also included celebrities, powerful businessmen, and other parents who exploited their riches and influence to buy their children’s admission to elite universities, received a 3 1/2-year prison sentence on Wednesday.
The sentencing for Rick Singer, 62, is the harshest sentence imposed in the massive scandal that embarrassed some of the most esteemed colleges in the country and brought attention to the opaque admissions process, which was already widely believed to be biased in favor of the wealthy.
Due to Singer’s substantial cooperation, which enabled police to dismantle the entire scam, the prosecution requested a six-year prison sentence. Hundreds of phone calls and meetings that Singer secretly recorded while collaborating with investigators in 2018 helped police develop a case against numerous parents, athletic coaches, and other people detained in March 2019.
Actress Lori Loughlin from “Full House,” her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, and actress Felicity Huffman from “Desperate Housewives” were all sentenced to prison for taking part in the conspiracy. Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and UCLA coaches among others acknowledged taking bribes.
The Varsity Blues college admissions scandal's mastermind Rick Singer gets 3-1/2 years in prison – https://t.co/NnMeBWGs7j pic.twitter.com/HiKZvkUAt3
— CWEB (@cweb) January 5, 2023
After the sentence, Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins told reporters, “The behavior, in this case, was something out of a Hollywood movie.”
In addition, Singer was required to surrender millions more in cash and assets to the authorities, as well as more than $10 million in restitution to the IRS. In February, he received a report to prison order.
Although a number of defendants were convicted as a result of Singer’s cooperation, the prosecution pointed out that he also acknowledged impeding the investigation by leaking information about a number of his clients who were under investigation. In the instances that got to trial, the government never summoned him as a witness.
Singer’s defense counsel, Candice Fields, pleaded with the judge for leniency, saying that her client “did whatever was required” to help the government and took a huge personal risk by wearing a wire to record meetings for investigators. Fields asked for six months in jail or three years of probation, whichever came first if the judge felt it was necessary.
Singer, according to Fields, was the only reason why hundreds of prominent and occasionally famous defendants were prosecuted, which is how the inquiry came to be as well-known as it was.
The singer expressed regret to his family, the publicized schools he embarrassed, and the children he had interacted with over the years. He committed to working for the betterment of people’s lives for the rest of his natural life.
“The lessons my father taught me about competition distorted my moral compass. I accepted his viewpoint that it was appropriate to exaggerate or even lie in order to win. He confessed, “I ought to have known better.
The singer admitted admission to charges related to racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy in 2019 – the same day the significant case was made public. Two parents were found guilty after a trial, while dozens of others ultimately entered guilty pleas to the charges.
An executive under investigation for an unrelated securities fraud scheme told investigators that a Yale soccer coach had promised to help his daughter get into the school in exchange for money, prompting Boston authorities to start looking into the plot. The Yale coach directed police to Singer, whose cooperation allowed the whole conspiracy to be thwarted.
Singer bribed coaches to identify candidates as recruits to increase their prospects of admission to the school and paid off entrance exam administrators or proctors to manipulate students’ test scores for years.
Soccer, sailing, and tennis coaches accepted kickbacks to misrepresent pupils’ athletic abilities when recruiting them as athletes. To make pupils appear to star in sports they sometimes didn’t even play, fake sports profiles were made. Most of the bribes were routed through Singer’s fictitious nonprofit, which allowed some parents to pass them off as charitable contributions and reduce their federal income taxes.
Prosecutors claim that Singer received more than $25 million from his clients, paid more than $7 million in bribes, and used more than $15 million of their money for his personal gain.
If the judge did not impose a significant jail term, it would send a “devastating message that fraud pays and obstruction of justice rewards,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank warned the judge.
According to Frank, “this defendant was accountable for the largest fraud ever committed against the American higher education system.”
The former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who received a 2 1/2 year prison sentence for accepting more than $3 million in bribes, received the harshest punishment prior to Singer.
The parents’ sentences have ranged from probation to 15 months in prison, but the father who received the latter punishment is still out on bail as he files an appeal.
A parent who was suspected of bribing Ernst to get his daughter into the school was cleared on all counts, even though he wasn’t Singer’s collaborator. Additionally, a judge mandated a new trial for Jovan Vavic, a former water polo coach at the University of Southern California who was found guilty of receiving bribes.