Money & Power

Who Is William Singer, the Man at the Center of the College Admissions Fraud Scandal?

The CEO pleaded guilty to giving the children of celebrities a "guaranteed side door" into top colleges.
IMAGE SCOTT EISEN/GETTY IMAGES
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  • William Singer allegedly used criminal means to get the children of wealthy families into top colleges.
  • Singer pleaded guilty to four federal charges on Tuesday. Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were also charged as part of the FBI's investigation.

    On March 12, news broke that numerous celebrities including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were being charged in the largest college cheating scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

    Codenamed "Operation Varsity Blues" the investigation reportedly determined that wealthy parents, Huffman and Loughlin included, had paid millions of dollars to get their children into top colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and USC, by falsifying their records, having them erroneously marked as recruits for college sports teams, and using bribed officials to alter the children's answers on college entrance exams.

    As more information about the investigation has come to light, 58-year-old William Singer—also known as Rick Singer—has become a central figure in the scam. Here's everything we know so far about the man who just pleaded guilty to fraud.

    SINGER PLEADED GUILTY TO FOUR CHARGES IN FEDERAL COURT ON MARCH 12, 2019.

    As a result of the FBI investigation, Singer was charged with one count each of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice, according to the New York Times. He pleaded guilty to all counts, saying, "Everything that [the prosecutor] stated is exactly true—all of those things, plus many more things I did.”

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    Singer was released on bail and could reportedly face up to 65 years in prison as well as a $1.25 million fine, says CNN. Sentencing is scheduled for June 19.


    William 'Rick' Singer after pleading guilty to all charges on March 12, 2019

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    HE OWNS A FOR-PROFIT COLLEGE COUNSELING SERVICE KNOWN AS THE KEY.

    Singer's company, Edge College & Career Network, is publicly known as the Key, which operates in 81 U.S. cities and six countries. The Key touts itself on its website as a referral-based college counseling and life coaching service for "the world’s most respected families." He also, according to the Times, runs the Key Worldwide Foundation, which is set up as a non-profit foundation and was reportedly used to disguise payments made to Singer from his wealthy clients, which could total as much as $25 million.

    HE OFFERED WEALTHY PARENTS A "SIDE DOOR" TO GET THEIR CHILDREN INTO TOP COLLEGES.

    “If I can make the comparison, there is a front door of getting in, where a student just does it on their own,” Singer stated as part of his guilty plea. “There’s a back door, where people go to institutional advancement and make large donations, but they’re not guaranteed in. And then I created a side door that guaranteed families to get in. So that was what made it very attractive to so many families, is I created a guarantee."

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    According to the investigation, he created this "guarantee" through a series of methods, including arranging for students to do their ACT and SAT testing in specific sites where Singer had bribed proctors to correct some of the students answers after the testing; bribing coaches to assert that the students were recruits for the school's sports teams, regardless of the student's athletic performance (Loughlin's daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli and her sister, Isabella, were both reportedly listed as recruits for the university’s crew team, though neither have participated in the sport); as well as lying about their biographical details, including their ethnicity, on admissions applications to take advantage of affirmative action.

    The children involved were apparently unaware of these deceptions and the Justice Department has emphasized that they are not the target of the investigation.


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    Lori Loughlin allegedly paid Singer to get her daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli into colleges.

    HE STARTED HIS CAREER AS A BASKETBALL COACH.

    Singer evidently began his career as boys basketball coach of Encina High School, from which he was fired in 1988 for what the Sacramento Bee reported at the time to be "an abusive nature toward referees." He later served as assistant coach for Sacramento State’s men’s basketball team.

    THE KEY ISN'T HIS FIRST COLLEGE COUNSELING VENTURE.

    In 1992 Singer opened Future Stars College & Career Counseling in Sacramento, according to a 2005 profile on him from the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as a similar company called the CollegeSource in 2004. He also, according to the Key, helped create the nation's first fully-online high school, the University of Miami Online High School, which he sold to Kaplan College Preparatory in 2007.

    In 2014 he wrote a book titled, Getting In: Gaining Admission to the College of Your Choice.

    SINGER IS A FORMER CALL CENTER EXECUTIVE.

    Between his counseling ventures, according to Singer's biography on the Key, he also worked managing call centers for the Money Store/First Union Bank, West Corporation, and became "the CEO of one of India’s largest call center companies."

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    *This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

    *Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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