Operation Varsity Blues: Man Behind College Admissions Scandal Gets 3.5 Years in Prison
Above: Singer leaving federal court building in Boston, 2019 (Credit: Steven Senne / AP)
William “Rick” Singer, the man behind the infamous “Operation Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal, has been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison and supervised release. NBC reports that Singer, 62, was sentenced yesterday afternoon in Boston.
The scandal first came to light on March 12, 2019, when the federal investigation and first rounds of charges were announced. To date, over 50 people have either been charged or convicted, including university officials and notable public figures such as actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
Dozens of wealthy parents were accused of paying Singer at least $25 million between 2011 and 2018 in a scheme in which Singer, who billed himself as an independent college admissions counselor, would work with the parents to facilitate their children’s admissions to top universities through what he termed a “side door”.
This “side door” process involved, but was not limited to, bribing exam administrators in an effort to facilitate cheating, or by bribing officials in university athletics programs to recruit applicants whose athletic backgrounds had been fabricated, thus procuring their admission to the university.
Singer’s cover for these operations were his two firms, Key Worldwide Foundation and The Edge College & Career Network.
Authorities first learned of the scheme in early 2018 when a businessman in Los Angeles by the name of Morrie Tobin, already under federal investigation for an alleged pump-and-dump conspiracy and securities fraud, offered information on the admissions scheme in exchange for leniency.
Tobin reportedly told investigators that Rudolph Meredith, head coach for women’s soccer at Yale, had asked him for nearly half a million dollars to help Meredith’s youngest daughter gain admission to Yale. These developments ultimately led investigators to Singer.
Singer, in turn, began cooperating with the investigation as well, which at times involved secretly wearing a wire to help expose co-conspirators. He pleaded guilty in 2019 to racketeering and money laundering conspiracy charges, among others. In addition to his prison sentence, he has also been sentenced to three years of supervised release.
The case attracted worldwide attention and outrage, and led to renewed public discourse on topics of higher education overall, wealth inequality, and celebrity privilege. Much of the public ire has been directed not at Singer, but at the parents and university officials who had participated in the scheme.
Singer, the scandal, and the federal investigation are the subject of the 2021 Netflix documentary “Operation Varsity Blues.”