Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged nearly 50 people, including Hollywood actresses, wealthy business leaders and coaches at top American universities, with paying or accepting bribes to admit student applicants.
At a news conference in Boston on Tuesday, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Andrew E. Lelling, called the case the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted by the Justice Department.
Both coaches and private admissions counselors received millions of dollars for helping to get students admitted as athletes to Yale, Stanford and the University of Southern California, regardless of their academic or sports ability, officials said.
Along with Hollywood stars Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, those charged included prominent business leaders, a fashion designer and a top lawyer, officials said.
The bribery ring centered around a for-profit college admissions company based in Newport Beach, California, which powerful and wealthy parents paid to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and manufacture athletic credentials, prosecutors said.
William Rick Singer, owner of the admissions company, was charged with racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Singer created the company in 2007 officially named The Edge College & Career Network but also known simply as “The Key.”
Joseph R. Bonavolonta, the special agent in charge of the Boston office of the FBI, accused those involved in the scheme of fostering “a culture of corruption and greed” that was unfair to those students who were following the rules to get into prestigious universities.
“You can’t lie and cheat to get ahead because you will get caught,” he warned.