Rick Singer masterminded a $25 million college admissions cheating scheme to willing participants. Wealthy parents were provided counseling services on college admissions for their children. Singer promoted his services as the master of college admissions, referring to college admissions as a game that could be won. Through a sham charity, parents paid to cheat on SAT and ACT college entrance exams. Clients were sent to doctors to secure special testing arrangements for their children, even if the students had no medical conditions. Often a proctor of the exam would correct student’s answers. Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to two weeks in prison for paying $15,000 to have a test proctor inflate her daughter's SAT score. Huffman took responsibility and showed great remorse in her public and legal interactions.
Singer said that there was a front door and a back door to college admissions, and he provided the side door. The side door included giving money to coaches so they would recruit the parents’ children as athletes, regardless of their ability. Bribing coaches and manipulating test results provided the side door into college admission. Parents are now pleading guilty to fraud, and many may be going to prison. A parent in Los Angeles was sentenced to four months in prison for paying $400,000 to get his son into Georgetown University as a bogus tennis recruit. He received a $100,000 fine and was ordered to serve 500 hours of community service. The judge in this case noted that there is an 'order of magnitude' in the cases being investigated. She viewed the excessive payments to bribe coaches or other admissions representatives as a much more serious breach of ethics and the law than the manipulation of SAT scores. Ethical issue intensity means that some breaches in conduct have more significance and impact than others.
Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Gianulli allegedly paid $500,000 to secure acceptance of their daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though they did not participate in the sport of rowing. The couple plead not guilty to the charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering.
More than 50 people have been charged with felony to commit fraud, including bribery, mail fraud, and money laundering. Some of those charged were using a charitable organization to conceal the source and nature of their bribery payments. Those charged included coaches, exam administrators and wealthy parents that participated in the fraud to get their children into elite schools such as Stanford, Yale, and USC. The scandal has damaged high school students’ attitudes toward college admissions with 57 percent feeling the admission system favors the wealthy, according to a Kaplan Test Prep survey. The scandal has raised questions about how parents with no previous criminal record could be lured into a highly illegal scheme that could possibly destroy their careers.