Breaking down the accusations against parents in the ‘Varsity Blues’ cheating scandal

first_imgYinYang/iStock(BOSTON) — Many parents who are accused of participating in a pricey college entrance cheating scandal are set to appear in Boston federal court as part of the ongoing case.Most of the parents appearing in court on Wednesday are being charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Each case was detailed in the court documents that were released when the scandal was first announced, with each case differing based on the individual students involved.Here is a rundown of how each parent is accused of having participated in the scheme:Jane BuckinghamBefore the scandal, Jane Buckingham was known to many as a marketing analyst, young adult self-help author and millennial trend spotter.Now she is accused of paying the cheating ring’s alleged mastermind, Rick Singer, $35,000 of an agreed upon $50,000 through his charity to get testing ace Mark Riddell to take the ACT exam for her son Jack.To keep the scam secret from Jack, Buckingham asked Singer to send a copy of the exam so that her son could take it at home while Riddell was taking the real test in Houston, court documents allege. Buckingham also allegedly sent Singer a photograph of her son’s handwriting to forward to Riddell so he could could mimic his style.In a statement released to The Hollywood Reporter, her son Jack said “I am sorry” to “millions of kids out there both wealthy and less fortunate who grind their ass off just to have a shot at the college of their dreams. I am upset that I was unknowingly involved in a large scheme that helps give kids who may not work as hard as others an advantage over those who truly deserve those spots.”A representative for Jack’s father, Jane’s ex-husband Marcus, released a statement to ABC News saying: “Marcus had no knowledge of or involvement in the activities for which his ex-wife has been charged.”The statement went on to note that he and his children learned the news when the charges were announced and that Marcus’ focus now is on caring for the “emotional wellbeing” of his children.Felicity Huffman One of the two well-known actresses who are allegedly involved in the scheme, Felicity Huffman is famous for her Academy Award-nominated role in Transamerica and was one of the main characters in the television show Desperate Housewives.She is married to fellow actor William H. Macy, and though he is not charged in connection to the alleged scheme, he is mentioned throughout the court documents.Huffman and Macy allegedly gave $15,000 to Singer’s bogus charity “to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of their oldest daughter. Huffman later made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so,” the court documents allege.Singer met both Huffman and Macy at their home to explain “in substance, how the college entrance exam scheme worked,” court documents state. Investigators say Singer told them that both Huffman and Macy “agreed to the plan,” according to documents.With Singer’s guidance, the couple allegedly convinced the SAT’s parent company, College Board, that their oldest daughter needed extra time for the test. This maneuver, according to court documents, allowed her to test at Singer’s allegedly “controlled” testing center: Igor Dvorskiy’s West Hollywood Test Center. Singer flew in testing ace Mark Riddell from Tampa, Florida, to “proctor” the exam. Huffman’s eldest daughter scored 1420, “an improvement of approximately 400 points over her PSAT, taken without [Mark Riddell] one year earlier,” according to the criminal complaint.Not long after Singer started cooperating with the government, he let agents record several of his phone calls with Huffman, including one where he details having Riddell take the test for their daughter and Huffman allegedly responding “Okay, that sounds great.”In another similar conversation, Singer is recorded speaking with both Huffman and Macy.Lori Loughlin and Mossimo GiannulliThe other actress involved in the alleged cheating ring, Lori Loughlin, was known to many for playing wholesome Aunt Becky on Full House, and for her roles in a number of Hallmark Channel movies.Both Netflix, which airs the reboot Fuller House, and Hallmark have since dropped her in the wake of the scandal.She’s not the only famous face in the family, as her husband is a well-known fashion designer and their younger daughter, known as Olivia Jade, was a social media influencer with endorsement deals from companies like Sephora.Olivia Jade and her older sister Isabella were enrolled at the University of Southern California at the time that charges were filed against their parents.The Giannullis allegedly “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team—despite the fact that they did not participate in crew—thereby facilitating their admission to USC,” according to court documents. They allegedly submitted fake athletic profiles including “action” photos of their daughters on rowing machines.They allegedly paid $50,000 to USC’s senior athletic director, Donna Heinel, to get her to “recruit” their oldest daughter Isabella as a coxswain. After Isabella was accepted, Giannulli wired another $200,000 to Singer’s bogus charity.Heinel pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy last month and her attorney said she is looking “forward to reviewing the government’s evidence and fully restoring Donna’s reputation in the college athletic community.”The Giannullis allegedly did it again for their youngest daughter, Olivia Jade. This allegedly involved another fake rowing profile, another push from Heinel and another $250,000 payment, followed by another acceptance letter from USC.Their scheme was almost uncovered by a high school guidance counselor, who “did not believe that either of the Giannullis’ daughters participated in crew, and was concerned that their applications may have contained misleading information,” according to court documents. Giannulli then allegedly went to the high school and confronted the counselor, assuring him Olivia Jade was a rower.After Singer began cooperating with investigators, his calls with the Giannullis were recorded.Elizabeth and Manuel HenriquezManuel Henriquez stepped down as CEO of a Bay Area hedge fund after being charged with wire fraud in this case. His daughter, Isabelle, was enrolled at Georgetown University when the charges against him were announced.The university released a statement saying: “We are reviewing the details of the indictment, examining our records, and will be taking appropriate action.”Henriquez and his wife, Elizabeth Henriquez, are alleged to have paid Singer to help their two daughters cheat on their standardized tests. They also allegedly paid $400,000 to Singer’s charity to bribe Georgetown’s tennis coach, Gordon Ernst, to designate their older daughter as a tennis recruit.Court documents allege that they paid $25,000 to have Riddell proctor Isabelle’s SAT exam at her school and “correct her answers,” according to court documents.“He sat side-by-side with the daughter during the exam and provided her with answers to the exam questions, and after the exam, he ‘gloated’ with Elizabeth Henriquez and her daughter about the fact that they had cheated and gotten away with it,” court documents state.The couple also allegedly arranged for Singer to have Riddell take the ACT exam for their younger daughter. Instead of paying Singer for that one, Manuel Henriquez “agreed to use his influence at Northeastern University… to help [Singer] secure the admission of an applicant to that school… The applicant’s parents paid [Singer] $250,000 after she was admitted,” court documents state.The Henriquezes also paid Singer $25,000 to $30,000 in cash “to facilitate cheating on three SAT subject tests and the ACT for their younger daughter,” court documents state.Gordon CaplanThough not necessarily as well-known as the two actresses involved in the alleged scheme, Gordon Caplan was well-known in the law profession; American Lawyer named him one of 2018’s “Dealmakers of the Year.”If convicted, he not only faces jail time but could also be disbarred.Caplan is accused of paying $75,000 to Singer’s bogus charity in November and December of 2018 to have Riddell proctor his daughter’s ACT exam “and correct the answers after she had completed it,” according to court documents.“Instead of her bubbling into the test, which we do with all kids who have learning differences… they write their answers on a separate sheet to the side of it, so that we can rebubble,” the court documents allege Singer said, detailing how the scheme worked.Caplan was also allegedly caught on secret wiretaps discussing with Singer how to have his daughter fake a learning disability to get extra time to take the test and facilitate the cheating, according to court documents.On the tape, Caplan is recorded saying: “To be honest, I’m not worried about the moral issue here. I’m worried about the, if she’s caught doing that, you know, she’s finished,” according to court documents.John B. WilsonJohn B. Wilson is the president and CEO of the private equity and real estate investment firm Hyannis Port Capital.He is alleged to have “conspired to bribe Jovan Vavic, the USC water polo coach, to designate his son as a purported recruit to the USC men’s water polo team, thereby facilitating his admission to USC. Wilson also sought to use bribes to obtain the admission of his two daughters to Stanford University and Harvard University as recruited athletes,” according to court documents.After Wilson allegedly emailed his concern that the scam might blow back on his son, Singer advised that his son would not actually be expected to play water polo.“The commitment is to be on the roster not attend all practices but he will have to attend drug tests and other mandatory functions for 1 year then walk away/frankly after the 1st semester he can move on,” Singer said, according to court documents.Singer allegedly created a bogus athletic profile for the son “that included fabricated swimming times and awards,” the court documents state.Coach Vavic allegedly emailed a USC athletics administrator that Wilson’s son “would be the fastest player on our team, he swims 50 [yards] in 20 [seconds], my fastest players are around 22 [seconds], this kid can fly,” the court documents state.Wilson’s son got into USC as a water polo recruit. He withdrew from the team after his first semester, according to court documents. For all this, Wilson allegedly paid Singer $220,000.While Singer was cooperating with investigators he got Wilson to agree to a fictitious scheme to pay another $1.5 million — to be divided between Stanford and Harvard — to secure admission for his two daughters, according to court documents.Peter Jan ‘P.J.’ SartorioWhile not a universally-known figure, Peter Jan ‘P.J.’ Sartorio is the founder and CEO of a natural and organic food company.Court documents allege that he “paid Singer $15,000 in cash in or about June 2017 to have [Riddell] purport to proctor the ACT for Sartorio’s daughter, and correct her exam answers.”While Singer was cooperating with federal agents, they allegedly recorded a phone call he had with Sartorio. Singer told him the IRS was auditing his foundation but Singer assured Sartorio that “because you paid cash, essentially,” that he would not “show up on my books.”Toby MacFarlaneAnother businessman on the list, Toby MacFarlane, is a senior executive at a title insurance company.Court documents allege that he paid thousands to get his daughter into USC as a soccer recruit and, later, gave $200,000 to Singer’s charity to get his son in as a basketball recruit.His daughter graduated from USC in 2018, but “did not play soccer at USC”, according to court documents. His son attended USC briefly but dropped out without ever playing basketball.Homayoun ZadehThe Los Angeles Times described Homayoun Zadeh as “an institution at USC’s dental school, rising over a four-decade academic career from student to lab director to the chair of the periodontology department.”Zadeh is accused of having conspired to bribe USC’s former athletic director Donna Heinel “to designate his daughter as a lacrosse recruit—despite the fact that she did not play lacrosse competitively—thereby facilitating her admission to USC.”Though Zadeh allegedly pledged to pay Singer $100,000, he had trouble coming up with the money. His wife told Singer they had to refinance their home to come up with the money, according to court documents. They are alleged to have ultimately paid $55,000 in installments.Bruce IsacksonBruce Isackson is the president of the real estate development firm WP Investments. His wife Davina Isackson has also been charged and already made her first appearance before a judge in Boston.Court documents allege that Bruce Isackson transferred 2,150 shares of Facebook — with a value of about $251,249 at the time — to Singer’s bogus charity in an effort to get their daughter into college as a soccer recruit using falsified athletic profiles, according to court documents.First, the court documents state that “he sought to secure the Isackson daughter’s admission to USC — her first-choice school — as a purported soccer recruit.” After her application was mistakenly routed through the normal admissions process due to a “clerical error,” they then focused on getting her into UCLA.Later, they allegedly transferred to Singer’s foundation other shares of stock worth $101,272 after getting help with their younger daughter’s ACT exam, according to court documents.They then allegedly schemed to get the younger daughter into USC as a rowing recruit “even though she was not competitive in rowing, but instead was an avid equestrian,” court documents state. After she was accepted to USC, Isackson allegedly transferred more shares of stock worth $249,420 to Singer’s charity.Isackson and his wife were allegedly caught on secretly-recorded wiretaps talking to Singer about these schemes and about an effort to get their third child into college.Gregory and Amy ColburnThe final couple on the list who’s set to appear later on Wednesday are Gregory and Amy Colburn.Gregory Colburn is a physician.They are alleged to have participated in the alleged college entrance cheating scheme on behalf of their son. The Colburns transferred stock worth $24,443.50 to Singer’s charity and wrote a check for $547.45. In addition to the wire fraud charges facing the other parents, the Colburns were indicted on money laundering charges last week, according to ABC Station KGO-TV.The Colburns’ attorneys released a statement to ABC News saying, “The Colburns are innocent of these charges, and they completely deny the allegations in the indictment.”“The Colburns’ son took his SAT test with no assistance, and the Colburns were unaware that his test was altered in any way,” the statement continued. “The Colburns’ lives have been turned upside down by these false accusations. They were arrested at their home in front of their children. These types of heavy-handed tactics have resulted in widespread criticism against the DOJ in Boston and nationally.”Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.last_img read more

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