The saga of million-dollar bribes, fake charities, and Photoshopped athletic photos known as the “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal will soon come to a close, as the scheme’s mastermind faces a Wednesday sentencing in federal court.
It was likely the largest case of college admissions fraud ever when the federal investigation nicknamed “Operation Varsity Blues” ensnared a handful of Bay Area rich people, as well as Hollywood stars Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. The scheme essentially involved wealthy people paying bribes of up to $6.5 million to get their kids into elite schools like Stanford, via kickbacks to sports recruiting personnel and SAT administrators, and in some cases the students were Photoshopped into photos that made it look like they played sports they’d never played, to justify deceitful recruiting offers.
The accused mastermind of all this, was college admissions “consultant” and Sacramento native Rick Singer. Last we heard of Singer was in July, when a Sacramento Bee reporter tracked him down at an obscure Florida mobile home park. All of the parents who participated in Singer’s schemes have largely been sentenced, but they saved Singer for last, because he flipped and was a cooperating witness against his former clients. But CNN reports that Singer, who’s already pleaded guilty, now has his sentencing hearing next week.
Prosecutors are calling for Singer to be sentenced to six years in prison, and charged $19 million in fines and asset forfeitures. Singer’s attorneys, unsurprisingly, are calling for no prison time, and instead one year of home detention, three years of probation, and 750 hours of community service.
“I have been reflecting on my very poor judgment and criminal activities that increasingly had become my way of life. I have woken up every day feeling shame, remorse, and regret,” Singer wrote in his pre-sentencing court statement. “By ignoring what was morally, ethically, and legally right in favor of winning what I perceived was the college admissions ‘game,’ I have lost everything.”
It will help that Singer flipped and cooperated with federal prosecutors, and had been doing so since well before the scandal became public. But it will hurt him that, according to prosecutors, Singer “not only obstructed the investigation by tipping off at least six of his clients,” but he “also failed to follow the government’s instructions in other ways, including by deleting text messages and using an unauthorized cell phone.”
And there’s also the matter of the spectacular amount of money Singer made by funneling his clients’ money through a sham charity. “Singer took in more than $25 million from his clients and paid bribes totaling more than $7 million,” prosecutors say in sentencing documents. “He transferred, spent, or otherwise used more than $15 million of his clients’ money for his own benefit.”
Singer is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday, January 4, at a federal court in Boston.
Image: BOSTON, MA - MARCH 12: William "Rick" Singer leaves Boston Federal Court after being charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice on March 12, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. Singer is among several charged in alleged college admissions scam. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)