21 Apr 19
The Mercury News
It’s been called the largest college admissions cheating scandal in U.S. history.
And with some of the accused parents expected to formally plead guilty in coming weeks, attention is turning to their kids and how the scandal might affect their acceptance, enrollment or degrees. A Bay Area News Group analysis of hundreds of pages of court documents and other records shows:
Sixteen of the students ended up attending or offered acceptance to the University of Southern California, four times as many as Georgetown, which had the second-most students of parents accused in the scam.
At least a dozen students remain enrolled in their colleges as the criminal cases against their parents play out. A half-dozen others are believed to have earned degrees, while another dropped out.
At least 10 of the students were apparently knowing participants in their parents’ alleged scheme with mastermind William “Rick” Singer, the rogue college admissions counselor who has pleaded guilty.
A court affidavit mentions 40 kids whose 33 parents allegedly schemed with Singer to get them into exclusive universities by bribing athletic coaches or paying test administrators to inflate entrance exam scores. But more arrests are expected soon, according to a report in USA Today.
At least one of the students has reportedly been notified they are under investigation. But one expert believes federal prosecutors will decline to prosecute the kids and leave it to colleges to mete out consequences.
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“These students are going to be kicked out, and if they graduated, their degrees can be revoked,” said Manny Medrano, a former federal prosecutor and attorney in Los Angeles specializing in white-collar crime. “This is a lifelong punishment.”
BOSTON MA. – APRIL 3: Actress Lori Loughlin walks into Moakley Federal Court to be arraigned on charges associated with a college admission scandal, on April 3, 2019 in Boston, MA.(Staff Photo By Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
Who likely knew?
Among those who court filings suggest participated in the scheme are perhaps the best known of the bunch, the daughters of actress Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, Isabella and Olivia Jade Giannulli. Court records indicate both daughters were accepted at USC as crew prospects after submitting applications in which they posed for photos with rowing equipment, though neither had rowed. One of the girls reportedly received a notice from federal prosecutors of being under investigation.
But they were hardly the only ones who likely knew. The older daughter of Atherton financier Manuel Henriquez and his wife, Elizabeth, is said in a court affidavit to have “gloated” about the scheme with her mother and a man who had fed her correct answers during her SAT exam. She landed at Georgetown in 2016 as a tennis recruit, where she apparently remains a student. Her younger sister was said to have been given answers to the ACT and SAT subject tests.
The older daughter of Hillsborough developer Bruce Isackson and his wife, Davina, allegedly was copied on a 2016 email from her mother thanking Singer for his “creativity” in fraudulently getting her into UCLA as a soccer player. Her sister was copied on an email admitting her to USC as a prospective crew recruit though she wasn’t a competitive rower.
A daughter of Miami investor Robert Zangrillo participated in a June 2018 call between her father and Singer about getting her into USC as a phony crew prospect, court filings say.
A son of Los Angeles sales executive Stephen Semprevivo sent an August 2015 email to the accused Georgetown tennis coach touting his false tennis credentials, according to an affidavit, and was admitted the following year.
And the son of Laguna Beach developer Robert Flaxman was copied on a November 2015 email from Singer touting his accomplishments as a purported manager of a youth athletic team that was part of his application to the University of San Diego, where he was accepted in 2016. His sister in October 2016 was fed answers to the ACT, court filings said.
Attorneys for the accused parents had no comment.
BOSTON, MA- MARCH 12, 2019: William Rick Singer leaves Federal Court after he agreed to plead guilty in a college admissions scheme that he operated. March 12, 2019 (Staff Photo By Faith Ninivaggi/ Boston Herald/ Media News Group)
Who was kept in the dark?
Court filings indicate that Todd and Diane Blake tried to hide their efforts to get their daughter admitted to USC last year as a fake volleyball recruit. In a recorded conversation in February, Diane Blake told Singer her daughter “doesn’t even know, you know?”
In a recorded conversation about cheating to boost his daughter’s ACT score, Singer assured accused Connecticut lawyer Gordon Caplan that “she will never know that this actually occurred.”
Accused Las Vegas media mogul Elisabeth Kimmel indicated in a recorded July 2018 conversation with Singer that her son “has no idea” he was admitted to USC as a fake pole vaulter with an application that used a photo of another athlete.
And accused USC dentistry professor Homayoun Zadeh in a March 2017 text message with Singer about getting his daughter into USC as a fake lacrosse player, fretted that she was concerned about “getting in on her own merits.” It was unclear if she later enrolled.
“I have not shared anything about our arrangement” with her, Zadeh continued, “but she somehow senses it.”
Actress Felicity Huffman enters the court to appear before Judge M. Page Kelley to face charge for allegedly conspiring to commit mail fraud and other charges in the college admissions scandal at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts on April 3, 2019. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP)JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images
Whose parents are copping pleas?
Thirteen parents, among them Caplan, Flaxman, Semprevivo and the Isacksons, agreed to plea deals with federal prosecutors this month. Others include actress Felicity Huffman, said to have paid for SAT cheating on behalf of her older daughter, Sofia, and to have considered the same for her sister; San Francisco vintner Agustin Huneeus, whose daughter was accepted to USC as a purported water polo player; and Los Angeles executive Devin Sloane, whose son also got into USC as a phony water polo player.
Why were so many of the bogus applications tied to USC? Singer, the scheme’s mastermind, was based in Southern California, and the school had more current and former employees allegedly involved than others. USC has said it was the victim of “fraudulent applications in which students’ academic and athletic ability were intentionally misrepresented to the university for the sole purpose of bypassing USC’s rigorous admissions process.” But the student newspaper, in an editorial, decried it as the latest scandal under administrators lacking serious oversight and accountability.
What are universities doing?
Universities caught up in the scandal, citing federal privacy law, have generally declined to discuss individual students’ cases, but also stressed that any found to have submitted falsified applications may be subject to dismissal or revocation of degrees and course credits. Investigations of current students are ongoing.
Stanford is the only university connected to the caper to have announced dismissal of a student associated with the scheme.
The University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California was linked to 16 of the students whose parents have been charged in the college admissions scandal . (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
USC said it has rejected an unspecified number of fall 2019 applicants it found to be tied to the case and frozen the status of current students, preventing them from withdrawing, acquiring transcripts or registering for class until they agree to cooperate with a review of their situation. USC said “developments in the criminal cases, including plea deals by parents,” would factor into its decision on implicated students.
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But one of the implicated universities, Wake Forest in North Carolina, where a coach is charged with taking a bribe to bring in a wait-listed student as a volleyball player, agreed to let the student stay. A spokeswoman explained there was “no information” she had knowledge of the alleged bribe or “was admitted on the basis of fraudulent academic or athletic information.”
Scot Claus, an Arizona lawyer whose son attends USC but who isn’t involved in the case, said a university “certainly has discretion what its sanction is going to be” regarding students unwittingly admitted through their parents’ fraud. But he added that college applications require students to ensure they are truthful.
“The student affirms that revocation of the degree is a possible sanction,” Claus said, if the information in their application “is deemed to be false.”
Which rich Bay Area parents paid to grease their kid’s entry to elite colleges? Read the article.