College admissions cheating scheme plea, ensnared 50 people.
Yale University has rescinded the admission of a student that officials at the school say was involved in an alleged nationwide college entrance scam that ensnared 50 people, including Hollywood actresses and chief executive officers, some of whom appeared Monday in a Boston federal courtroom.
The ousted student, who was not identified, is the second person from the Ivy League college caught up in the coast-to-coast scandal in which federal prosecutors allege dozens of wealthy parents lied and paid massive bribes to get their children into elite schools.
Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, the former head women’s soccer coach at Yale, was arrested in the federal probe dubbed “Varsity Blues,” and charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services wire fraud. Prosecutors said Meredith, 51, was paid a $400,000 bribe by William “Rick” Singer, identified by authorities as the ringleader of the scam, to accept a student even though the applicant did not play soccer.
The Yale student’s parents had allegedly paid Singer $1.2 million to get their daughter into the prestigious Connecticut school, prosecutors said.
“Yale has rescinded the admission of one student as a result of this matter,” Yale spokesman Thomas Conroy said in a statement to ABC News.
Meredith, who prosecutors said had been working with Singer since April 2015, resigned as coach in November after 24 seasons. At the time he said “it is time to explore new possibilities and begin a different chapter in my life.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that Morrie Tobin, a Los Angeles financial executive, had sought leniency in an unrelated securities fraud case against him by tipping off federal investigators that Meredith had sought a bribe from him in return for getting Tobin’s daughter into the Yale. Tobin’s tip, according to The Journal, led investigators to uncover the widespread cheating scandal involving dozens of wealthy parents.
Conroy told the Yale Daily News, the college’s independent student newspaper, that school officials have launched an internal review with the assistance of outside counsel to determine if there are other students involved in the scam.
The first batch of defendants charged in the scam appeared in a Boston federal courtroom on Monday.
The 12 defendants all pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy. They were ordered to surrender their passports.
The hearing was the first in a series of hearings scheduled in Boston federal court for those charged.
Parents indicted in the investigation allegedly paid bribes of up to $6.5 million to get their children into some of the nation’s top colleges, including Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said.
Federal prosecutors allege that Singer bought off numerous coaches, college entrance exam administrators, one exam proctor and a college administrator to help him in his years-long scheme to academically benefit the children of wealthy families.
Singer has pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.
Among the 33 parents indicted are Academy Award-nominated actress Felicity Huffman and actress Lori Loughlin, best known for her character Aunt Becky in the ABC sitcom “Full House.” Loughlin’s husband, fashion desinger, Mossimo Giannulli, was also charged in scam.
Tens of thousands of dollars in bribes allegedly went to a sham charity Singer set up called the Key Worldwide Foundation. Singer, according to prosecutors, would funnel the money to those working in cohoots with him, including coaches who listed college applicants as recruited competitive athletes despite some of them never having played sports, according to prosecutors.
At least seven of the nine coaches charged in the scam made court appearances Monday in Boston. Meredith is expected to enter a plea at a later date, while John Vandemoer, the former sailing coach at Stanford University, has alread pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.
Pleading not guilty Monday before a judge in Boston were legendary USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic, who has been fired by the school; Laura Janke, the former USC women’s socer coach; former Georgetown University tennis coach Gorden Ernst; former UCLA men’s head soccer coach Jorge Salcedo; Wake Forest head volleyball coach William Ferguson, who has been placed on administrative leave; and former USC women’s head soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin.
Martin Fox, president of a Houston-area tennis academy also pleaded not guilty. Fox, who is also involved in guiding student basketball players to college, allegedly accepted at least $250,000 in bribes to help Singer with both athlete recruitment and test-taking fraud, prosecutors said.
Donna Heinel, the former senior associate athletic director at USC, pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy on Monday and her attorney said she is looking “forward to reviewing the government’s evidence and fullying restoring Donna’s reputation in the college athletic community.”
“These charges come as a complete shock,” Heinel’s attorney, Nina Marino, said in a statement. “Anyone who knows Donna Heinel knows she’s a woman of integrity and ethics with a strong moral compus.”
The nationwide scheme was prosecuted in Boston partly because it was uncovered by FBI agents working there on an unrelated case, officials said.
Some members of Singer’s inner circle also appeared before a federal judge in Boston, including his bookkeeper Steven Masera. Mikaela Sanford, who was also employed by Singer, allegedly took online classes for certain students and is accused of “secretly taking” art history and biology classes so that the daughter of Robert Zangrillo, founder and CEO of Dragon Global, a Florida-based private investment firm, could get into USC, according to the federal indictment.
Igor Dvorskiy and Niki Williams, who both served as a college entrance test adminitrators, appeared in court Monday and pleaded not guilty to charges they both allowed Mark Riddell, a private school counselor in Florida, to take entrance exams for students or correct them on the sly, according to the indictment.