Fifty figures in six states were accused Tuesday by the US Department of Justice of having participated in a major admission scandal in some of the best universities in the United States. Among them are Hollywood actresses, real estate magnates, business leaders, elite coaches and a fashion designer.
A teenager who did not play football became a star rookie of the Yale team. Cost for his parents: $ 1.2 million. A high school student wishing to enroll at the University of Southern California was falsely considered to have a learning disability, so he could pass his admission test with an accomplice supervisor who would ensure he got the right score . Cost for his parents: at least $ 50,000. A student with no experience in rowing won a place in a prestigious university team, thanks to a rigged picture representing him in full sporting prowess: his parents transferred $ 200,000 to a special account.
Celebrities poured millions into bribes
Actresses Felicity Huffman (best known for her role as Lynette Scavo in the blockbuster series Desperate Housewives) and Lori Loughlin are among dozens of people charged by the FBI as part of a massive fraudulent admission program in some of the best universities of the United States. Hollywood stars, but also business leaders, real estate magnates and a fashion designer, Italian Mossimo Giannulli, would have paid up to $ 6 million in bribes for their children to be accepted at Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, UCLA, The University of Texas, The University of San Diego, and The University of Wake Forest (North Carolina). The so-called ploy, described by the FBI as a "national conspiracy", allowed parents to pay for their children to be introduced to the universities as high-level young athletes. Some of the so-called athletes did not even practice the sports for which they had been recruited. Some great academic coaches are also among those charged.
A "non-profit" business to help stars reach their end
The corruption network was born several years ago. William Rick Singer was then founded in Newport Beach, California, a for-profit university admission society. The Key would have helped students achieve better results for ACTs or SATs, helping them to cheat on exams. Singer is accused of corrupting university coaches, telling them that the student will be a rookie of choice for their sports team. Obviously, William Singer and the coaches knew that the student in question was not practicing the sport for which he was recruited. Singer agreed to plead guilty, notably for racketeering and money laundering conspiracy. Officially, The Key was a non-profit business, which allowed his boss to hide the nature of the payments made by the parents, who then deducted that amount from their income tax, as stated by the US Attorney Andrew Lelling at a press conference on Tuesday morning.
Charges of fraud and conspiracy
William Singer would have photoshoppé photos in particular to make believe that these wealthy students practiced sport at high level. The daughter of Wynn Resorts' former chief of operations, Gamal Abdelaziz, for example, presented at the University of Southern California as a valuable asset to the college basketball team. But once admitted, she never joined the said team.
The authorities said they recorded phone calls in which Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin discuss these frauds with a cooperating witness. The two women are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. Documents submitted to the authorities indicate that most students were unaware of their parents' ploy. A scandal that sheds light on the American university system: " I am not convinced that the best students go to the best universities " says Scott Jaschik, Editor-in-Chief at Inside Higher Ed.