College admissions scam alleges bribes via charity for elites’ and celebrities’ children

The purpose of post-secondary institutions is to educate and enlighten the next generation of society, but they have increasingly become for-profit factories, churning out degrees and graduates for exorbitant tuition fees that leave students with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in student debt. Meanwhile, progressive activists within administrations, faculties, and students defame and censor voices – often through violence – that ought to be welcome in the open-inquiry environments universities are intended to be. Now, American universities are caught red-handed in fraud scandals that privilege entry to its halls for children of the wealthy and influential over those deserving of placement by merit.

The United States Department of Justice has exposed long-running racketeering scheme dating back to 2011 with federal charges of cheating, fraud, and bribery against fifty people, including celebrities, coaches, and wealthy parents. On Tuesday, the charges were brought in connection with a sweeping college admissions scandal, according to documents unsealed in federal court in Boston. Officials have been investigating the case for more than a year and it is the largest college admission scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

Among those charged are "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin and "Desperate Housewives" actress Felicity Huffman, along with at least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents. Court documents filed in the case offer details, including allegations that photos of prospective students were altered to make them look like athletes and how many parents altered test scores without their children’s knowledge.

The scam, run by William Rick Singer of California, involved parents paying an admissions consultant a combined USD $25 million to help students cheat on college entrance exams and to guarantee them admission into elite colleges and universities as recruited athletes when in reality they were not athletes. Students were placed into top colleges, including Georgetown University, Stanford University, University of California Los Angeles, the University of San Diego, University of Southern California, University of Texas, Wake Forest, and Yale, through bribes. Mr. Singer, who authorities said has pled guilty to racketeering charges, ran a charity called Key Worldwide Foundation, where the charitable foundation was allegedly used as a front to run the scam.

Esteemed Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz responded to the scandal calling it one of the "great scandals of the 21st Century" and predicted it is "just the tip of the iceberg." He added, "This is the worst scandal involving elite universities in the history of the United States. No one can diminish the importance of this." Mr. Dershowitz said this type of alleged influence has been exercised at universities for years by the "super, super rich" in the form of "buying buildings" which bear their name. He said this case appears to involve the "very rich" attempting to buy admission for their children into some of the country's most prominent institutions.  Mr. Dershowitz also said that in today's college environment many students "sail through" because so few fail out, explaining that "In many universities, they've abolished grades, so there's no way of testing whether they are qualified or competent.”

Special Agent in charge of the FBI's Boston field office, Joseph R. Bonavolonta, said, "This is a case in which they flaunted their wealth and set their children up with the best education money could buy – literally. Their actions were, without a doubt, insidious, selfish and shameful. Today's arrests should be a warning to others: You can't pay to play, you can't lie and cheat to get ahead because you will get caught. The investigation continues, and we will continue to find and stop those who aren't playing by the rules.” Mr. Bonavolonta emphasized that the investigation is ongoing and additional charges could be filed and that the investigators did not charge any students, though that option is still being considered.

Now, two college students have filed a lawsuit against the University of Southern California, Yale University, and other colleges where prosecutors say parents paid bribes to ensure their children's admission. The lawsuit was filed by Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods on Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco and alleges the two, who are both currently students at Stanford, were denied a fair opportunity for admission. The plaintiffs claim that "Each of the universities took the students' admission application fees while failing to take adequate steps to ensure that their admissions process was fair and free of fraud, bribery, cheating and dishonesty.