In what's being called the biggest case of college admissions fraud ever, 50 individuals in six states have been indicted, including 14 people in the Bay Area, and actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin.
The U.S. Justice Department revealed details of the case Tuesday, in connection with a California-based college admissions consulting service called The Edge College & Career Network, a.k.a. The Key. As the Sacramento Bee reports, founder William Singer, who's now at the center of this scandal, hails from Sactown. Singer stands accused of arranging various methods of fraudulently getting the children of wealthy parents into schools they might not otherwise get accepted by, including deepfaked photos to make them look like athletes, and bribing coaches at elite schools to recruit them.
But as US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling tells the New York Times, "The parents are the prime movers of this fraud," and the wealthy and well known among them "will not be [prosecuted by] a separate criminal justice system." Of those indicted, 33 of the 50 are parents.
Deadspin explains that, according to the indictments, parents' payments to The Key were classified as tax write-offs in some cases, which Singer laundered through a charity he ran. Those involved are accused of participating in a range of fraudulent acts including fabricating fake student-athlete profiles for kids, bribing coaches with recruiting powers for prospective students, and bribing SAT proctors and test administrators.
Among the people indicted in the case are 14 people from the Bay Area, including Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, who's worked at the university for 11 years. As NBC Bay Area reports via his indictment, Singer allegedly arranged $770,000 in "donations" to Vandemoer's sailing program in exchange for recruiting student clients of his. Vandemoer is expected to plead guilty.
The list of other Bay Area residents indicted, according to NBC, is as follows:
∙ Diane Blake, 55, of San Francisco, an executive at a retail firm
∙ Todd Blake, 53, of San Francisco, an entrepreneur and investor
∙ Amy Colburn, 59, of Palo Alto
∙ Gremory Colburn, 61, of Palo Alto
∙ Elizabeth Henriquez, 56, of Atherton
∙ Manuel Henriquez, 55, of Atherton, chairman and CEO at Hercules Capital
∙ Agustin Huneeus Jr., 53, of San Francisco, owner of wine vineyards
∙ Bruce Isackson, 61, of Hillsborough, president of a real estate firm
∙ Davina Isackson, 55, of Hillsborough
∙ Marjorie Klapper, 50, of Menlo Park, co-owner of jewelry business
∙ William McGlashan Jr., 55, of Mill Valley, senior executive at a global equity firm
∙ Parci Palatella, 63, of Healdsburg, CEO of a liquor distribution company
∙ Peter Jan Sartorio, 53, of Menlo Park, packaged food entrepreneur
The Chronicle has more on the accused, noting that Huneeus is the son of "renowned Napa vintner Agustin Huneeus, whose family controls a global wine empire."
TMZ reports that Oscar nominee and Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman was arrested Tuesday in Los Angeles, as was Full House star Lori Loughlin, who's married to fashion mogul Mossimo Giannulli.
The Times notes that the scam was geared toward wealthy parents who were not wealthy enough to secure admission to an elite university by purchasing a building or a new wing, etc.
Says Chris Hunt, of the legit consulting service College Essay Mentor, to the Times, "This is an extreme, unsubtle and illegal example of the increasingly common practice of using money to get an edge in the race for a place in an elite university."