US: Mastermind of College Admissions Scam Sentenced

William "Rick" Singer, the architect of the largest US college admissions scam, was sentenced on Wednesday to 3.5 years in federal prison for helping children of the rich and famous secure admission to elite schools and universities through cheating and bribery.

US: Mastermind of College Admissions Scam Sentenced
Image credit: Reuters [via The New York Times]

Facts

  • William "Rick" Singer, the architect of the largest US college admissions scam, was sentenced on Wednesday to 3.5 years in federal prison for helping children of the rich and famous secure admission to elite schools and universities through cheating and bribery.
  • In addition to the prison time, the 62-year-old was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit over $10M. Singer is due to report to prison on Feb. 27.
  • Prosecutors had sought a six-year sentence for Singer, whose extensive cooperation with the government's sprawling "Operation Varsity Blues" investigation helped authorities arrest dozens of celebrity parents and athletic coaches in March 2019.
  • Singer – who pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the US, and obstruction of justice in 2019 – reportedly paid out $7M in bribes while pocketing $15M for himself.
  • Through his college admissions counseling firm, The Key, and its charity, The Key Worldwide Foundation, Singer reportedly employed illicit tactics to aid applicants in cheating on standardized tests, such as the SAT, and bribed coaches to assist non-athletes entrance into universities, including Yale, Georgetown, and USC.
  • Celebrities who served prison time in the Operation Varsity Blues scandal include "Full House" actor Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, and "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman.

Sources: Al Jazeera, CNN, Associated Press, Sky, and Forbes.

Narratives

  • Establishment-critical narrative, as provided by NY Times. The desperation of wealthy parents to get their children into prestigious schools is astounding. The fraud not only reflects the extraordinary lengths these influential people can go to but also exposes the vulnerability of a flawed education system. While the story may have ended with the culprits behind bars, the fund-raising-admission process link is left unscathed, leaving the rampant world of college elitism intact.
  • Pro-establishment narrative, as provided by NY Post. Although there are certainly monetary barriers to attending prestigious schools, the unraveling of this scam attests to the steps that have been taken to address this. While the deeply integrated classism in the prestigious US college admissions system cannot be changed overnight, Singer's sentencing is a start.