The mastermind behind the US college admissions scandal which saw celebrities and prominent figures use their wealth and privilege to buy their children places in top universities has been jailed.
Rick Singer, 62, was sentenced to three and a half years behind bars, marking the longest term handed down in the bribery scheme which landed a number of celebrities and athletic coaches in prison.
The scandal exposed the secretive admissions system and saw stars like Desperate Housewives’ Felicity Huffman and Full House actor Lori Loughlin sent to jail for participating in it.
Assistant US Attorney Stephen Frank told the judge on Wednesday: “It was a scheme that was breath-taking in its scale and its audacity. It has literally become the stuff of books and made-for-TV movies.”
Mr Frank said Singer, a former college admissions consultant, took in more than $25m from his clients and paid bribes totalling more than $7m.
“This defendant was responsible for the most massive fraud ever perpetuated on the higher education system in the United States,” he added.
For years, Singer paid off entrance exam administrators or proctors to inflate students’ test scores and bribed coaches to designate applicants as recruits in order to boost their chances of getting into the university.
Coaches from Yale and Stanford accepted bribes
Singer told the judge: “I lost my ethical values and have so much regret.
“To be frank, I am ashamed of myself.”
Coaches from some of the top US universities including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of California, Los Angeles, admitted to accepting bribes.
Sports coaches took bribes to pretend to recruit students as athletes with fake sports profiles made to make students look like stars in sports they sometimes didn’t even play.
The bribes were typically funnelled through Singer’s sham charity, allowing some parents to disguise the payments as charitable donations and deduct the payments from their federal income taxes.
Singer pleaded guilty same day case went public
More than 50 people were convicted in the bribery scheme.
Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli paid $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as rowers – even though neither of them did the sport.
They helped create fake athletic profiles for their daughters by sending Singer photos of the teens posing on rowing machines.
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Huffman also pleaded guilty and paid $15,000 to boost her older daughter’s SAT scores.
Singer pleaded guilty in 2019 – on the same day the massive case became public – to charges including racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.
Prosecutors had sought a six-year-sentence, noting Singer’s extensive cooperation that helped authorities unravel the entire scheme.
In 2018, he began secretly working with investigators and recorded hundreds of phone calls and meetings that helped authorities build the case against dozens of those involved who were arrested in March 2019.