How ‘Operation Varsity Blues’ Snagged 33 Parents

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Federal investigators were looking into a securities fraud case last spring when a financial executive hoping for leniency said offered information on another matter, reports the Wall Street Journal. The executive said Rudy Meredith, the women’s soccer coach at Yale University had sought a bribe in return for getting his daughter admitted to the Ivy League school. Authorities zeroed on the coach, who cooperated in what became the biggest college-admissions fraud ever prosecuted. From 2011 to 2018, parents allegedly paid $25 million to William Singer, a college-admissions consultant, to bribe coaches and administrators to designate their children as top recruits in football, water polo, soccer, track or volleyball at universities including the University of Southern California, Georgetown and Wake Forest. Some parents also paid Singer as much as $75,000 for test-cheating services.

Authorities have charged 33 parents with paying for illegal services to get their children into colleges; three people who were allegedly paid to fraudulently raise scores on SAT and ACT exams, as well as nine college coaches and five others. The new details revealed more about the origins and breadth of an investigation that involved families at the highest economic echelons, accused of pushing their way ahead of other college applicants with lies, bribes and cheating. Prosecutors said the plot attracted parents from affluent communities in California and in the east. “What we do is help the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school.” Singer told parent Gordon Caplan in a recorded call. “They want guarantees. They want this thing done.” The response from Caplan, co-chairman of New York law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, was, “To be honest, it feels a little weird. But…What do I need to do?” The federal investigation, named Operation Varsity Blues, received court approval to tap Singer’s phone in June.

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