William Rick Singer, CEO of college admissions preparatory company The Key, pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice in March 2019. These serious offenses were committed as part of a wide-ranging scam to help wealthy families get their children into elite universities by cheating on exams, bribing college coaches, and falsifying application materials.
Singer was hardly alone. In fact, dozens of university coaches from Yale, Stanford, and other prestigious schools; parents; exam administrators; and other individuals across several states were also charged at the time for their roles in college admissions fraud schemes.
It's not the first case involving college admissions fraud crimes, but the sheer breadth and brazen nature of these offenses profoundly rattled public trust in the admissions process. Below we'll look at how these crimes are committed and the various charges they entail.
College Admissions and the Incentive to Commit Fraud
To understand how people might be motivated to game the system, we need to consider how the admissions process works. Generally, colleges and universities look at standardized exams (primarily the SAT and ACT), high school scores, teacher recommendations, athletic achievement, and other activities. Each school does things a little differently, but they may have a cutoff point for exam scores or assign values to various criteria.
Therefore, families of means whose children's grades, exam scores, athletic ability, or other attributes don't quite make the cut may be tempted to buy their way into an elite college.
College Admissions Fraud: Cheating, Bribery, and Deception
The scandal involving Singer and his company consisted of allegations covering two main fraudulent activities:
According to prosecutors in the investigation, some parents paid as much as $75,000 per test in hopes of gaming the system. Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were charged for allegedly paying as much as $500,000 in bribes to falsely portray their two daughters as competitive rowers in an effort to gain admission to the University of Southern California.
Other acts of college admissions fraud (not related to the Singer investigation) also involved cheating, deception, and bribery (or influence peddling), some of them perpetuated by the colleges themselves. They include the following:
College Admissions Fraud Crimes: Specific Charges
Charges related to college admissions fraud crimes vary by jurisdiction and the underlying facts of each case, but these are some of the most common charges:
Involved in a College Admissions Fraud Crime? Get Legal Help Today
Most parents will go to great lengths to provide for their children, sometimes going too far. If you're in any way involved in a scheme to get your child admitted into a school using questionable means, you may be facing serious charges. Learn more about the legal boundaries, and your rights, by speaking with an expert criminal defense attorney near you today.