Actors, Coaches, CEOs Among 50 People Charged In College Admissions, Recruiting Bribery Scheme
Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were indicted along with several current and former college coaches, among others.
The FBI and federal prosecutors in Boston have charged 50 people, including several university athletic coaches and administrators of college entrance exams, in a nationwide college admissions cheating and recruitment scheme, according to court documents first released Tuesday morning. 13 people have been indicted.
According to the indictment, the scheme worked to help potential students cheat on college entrance exams or pose as recruited athletes to get admitted to high-profile universities with bribes of up to $6 million. The scheme allegedly facilitated admittance for some students as athletes regardless of their athletic abilities.
Parents allegedly paid a California man a predetermined amount which he would then steer to either an SAT or ACT administrator, or a college athletic coach. Coaches would help non-recruits get into school by saying they were recruits. Most of the students allegedly admitted under these false pretenses that they did not know their admission was contingent on a bribe.
The NCAA issued a statement in response to the indictment on Tuesday afternoon.
“The charges brought forth today are troubling and should be a concern for all of higher education,” the association said in a statement. “We are looking into these allegations to determine the extent to which NCAA rules may have been violated.”
Actors Felicity Huffman, of Desperate Housewives fame, and Full House‘s Lori Loughlin were both charged in the scheme, according to court documents, which show that the FBI recorded phone calls with both actresses and a cooperating witness where they discussed the scheme. The two have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Huffman is in federal custody after being arrested at her home without incident, according to NBC’s Andrew Blankstein. There is an arrest warrant out for Loughlin, who was reportedly not in Los Angeles this morning when Federal agents went to her home.
Among coaches indicted are Stanford’s sailing coach John Vandemoer, former Yale women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith, former Georgetown tennis coach Gordie Ernst, current Texas men’s tennis coach Michael Center and current UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo. Ernst, who is accused of taking multiple six-figure cash bribes to admit fake recruits, resigned without explanation from Georgetown last summer. He is now coaching at Rhode Island.
The Cardinal announced Tuesday that Vandemoer, who was charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, had been terminated in light of the information revealed in the indictment. In a statement, the University added that while neither student who had payments made on his or her behalf came to Stanford, Vandemoer’s behavior still “runs completely counter” to their values.
Wake Forest volleyball coach William “Bill” Ferguson was indicted in the scheme on the same charges as Vandemoer. Wake Forest announced Tuesday that the University has placed Ferguson on “administrative leave” while they investigate the allegations against him.
Salcedo has also been placed on leave in the wake of his indictment in the scandal, per the Ben Bolch of the L.A. Times.
Four USC athletics staff members were also charged including the Trojans former women’s soccer head coach Ali Khosroshahin, former women’s soccer assistant coach Laura Janke and current USC Senior Associate Athletic Director Donna Heinel and water polo head coach Jovan Vavic. Heinel and Vavic were fired as a result.
Mark Riddell, the Director of College Entrance Exam Preparation at IMG Academy, a private college preparatory school and sports academy in Bradenton, Fla., has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud alongside charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In her affidavit, Special Agent Laura Smith said the FBI has “probable cause to believe that the defendants conspired with others known and unknown: (1) to bribe college entrance exam administrators to facilitate cheating on college entrance exams; (2) to bribe varsity coaches and administrators at elite universities to designate certain applicants as recruited athletes or as other favored candidates, thereby facilitating the applicants’ admission to those universities; and (3) to use the facade of a charitable organization to conceal the nature and source of the bribe payments.”
The scheme, which was allegedly running from 2011 to present day, per court documents, involved Georgetown University, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of San Diego, USC, University of Texas, Wake Forest, and Yale.
One student was allegedly posed as a USC lacrosse recruit despite the lack of a lacrosse team in the Trojans’ athletic programs. Another prospective student was “made a long snapper,” despite weighing just 145 pounds. Other students athletic histories were similarly falsely described for the purposes of admission.
Per court documents, there is no indication that the schools were directly involved in wrong-doing.