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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

FBI Breaks College Admissions Scandal

A college cheating scandal broke in March 2019—but it’s not what one would think. It wasn’t the young adults scamming multiple universities; it was their parents who were masquerading their kids as student athletes or as whiz kids.
In an article, CNN reports, “Last Tuesday [March 12, 2019], prosecutors announced that a total of 50 people had been arrested in the extensive scheme…” [1]. Opheli Garcia Lawler and Lisa Ryan from The CUT stated, “In total, two entrance-exam administrators, one exam proctor, nine coaches at top schools, one college administrator, and 33 parents were taken into custody.” [5.] Among these parents lie actress Lori Loughlin, otherwise known as Aunt Becky from Full House, and Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman. All are heading to court. Forbes reports that, “Both actresses were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud.” [6].
FBI coined the investigation “Operation Varsity Blues.” There were two routes that a family could take: fake the SAT scores or get a sports scholarship. The sports scholarship route was easy with only several hundred-thousand dollars, Photoshop skills, and stock photos. Leora Arnowitz from USA Today reported that, “On Wednesday, Loughlin appeared in court and was released on a $1 million bail. She and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, allegedly agreed to pay $500,000 to guarantee their two daughters—Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose—admission to the University of Southern California as members of the crew team, though neither was an athlete.” [3].
The SATs required slightly more skill from the mastermind behind all of this—William “Rick” Singer. From the BBC: “Rick Singer, a Californian life coach in his late 50s, presented himself as an expert in the university admissions process. He wrote books about it, including the self-published ‘Getting In: Gaining Admission to Your College of Choice,’ which opened with an inspirational quote from Nelson Mandela.” [2]. Singer had students take their exams in separate testing centers as well as get doctor notes to allow for extra time. While Loughlin photoshopped her daughter’s faces on stock-photo crew team members, “Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 that she disguised as a charitable donation so that her daughter could take part in the entrance-exam cheating scam.” [4]. In the same The CUT article, the reporters wrote, “The lead FBI investigator, Joseph Bonavolonta, told CNN that parents paid anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million for guaranteed admission into a school.” [5]. From March 18, 2019, “Singer has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering, tax conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. He faces up to 65 years in jail and a $1.25 million fine.” [6.]
Loughlin has been cut from the Hallmark Channel and one of her daughters, Olivia Jade, has lost her brand deal with Sephora, a popular makeup retailer, among others. Because this scheme was in the works starting in 2011, it’s still up in the air as far as the consequences for other people involved in the scam and the amount of jail time.
Sources
1. https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/18/us/college-admissions-scam-phone-sting/index.html
2. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47585336
3. https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/tv/2019/03/14/lori-loughlin-dropped-hallmark-college-admissions-scandal/3166111002/
4. https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/people/2019/03/20/college-admissions-scandal-felicity-huffman-gets-separate-court-date/3224928002/
5. https://www.thecut.com/2019/03/college-cheating-scandal-everything-to-know-arrests.html
6. https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackfriedman/2019/03/18/30-facts-college-admissions-scandal/#3995a18312a0