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Operation Varsity Blues: TV Stars, Wealthy Parents, Coaches Charged in Huge College Bribery Scheme

03-12-2019
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(Image: AP File Photo)
(Image: AP File Photo)

Federal prosecutors have exposed a plot by Hollywood celebrities and other wealthy Americans to pay bribes to get their children into elite colleges. 

The nationwide scandal involved parents shelling out millions to alter test scores and fake athletic credentials.

The investigation is called Operation Varsity Blues. The Department of Justice says it's the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted, sweeping up dozens of parents, coaches and test administrators in its net.

At the heart of this case is parents. Prosecutors have charged 33 who paid enormous amounts to get their children accepted into some of the most elite schools.
 
They've also charged coaches, college test administrators and alleged mastermind William Singer of Newport Beach, California. He pled guilty in federal court on Tuesday.

US Attorney Andrew Lelling said, "Wealthy parents paid Singer about $25 million in total to guarantee their children's admission to elite schools, including Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas..."
 
Some of the parents are celebrities, like Lori Loughlin who played Aunt Becky on the sitcom Full House. Felicity Huffman, who starred in ABC's Desperate Housewives, is also being charged.

Prosecutors say the scam guaranteed acceptance into top schools by fabricating what every college wants: high test scores.

Lelling explained, "Numerous parents paid Singer between $15,000 and $75,000 to have someone either take the exam for their child or to correct their child's answers afterwards."

The scam also allegedly faked athletic profiles - creating the perception that certain students were strong athletes - and bribed college coaches.

"In return for bribes these coaches agreed to pretend that certain applicants were recruited, competitive athletes when in fact the applicants were not," Lelling said.

The NCAA says it will look into the allegations.

Authorities say they believe that other parents were involved and say the investigation will continue.
    
The real victims in this case? The hard-working high school students who didn't get admitted to the college of their choice because of this scam that ensured a place for those parents could buy access.

"This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud. There can be no separate college admission for the wealthy and I will add there will not be a separate criminal justice system either," Lelling said.

Prosecutors say they have no indication the schools knew anything about the plan.  In most cases, the students were left in the dark as well. However, they reiterate this is an active investigation and more charges could come for coaches and parents.

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