College scandal middleman blames ‘winning at all costs’

Dec 28, 2022, 6:40 PM | Updated: Dec 29, 2022, 8:55 am
FILE - In this March 12, 2019, file photo, William "Rick" Singer, founder of the Edge College & Car...

FILE - In this March 12, 2019, file photo, William "Rick" Singer, founder of the Edge College & Career Network, departs federal court in Boston after pleading guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. Singer, 62, who pleaded guilty in March 2019 to charges including racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, is scheduled to sentenced on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Boston for running the scheme that federal investigators dubbed Operation Varsity Blues. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

(AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

The consultant at the center of the nationwide college admissions scandal blamed his “winning at all costs” attitude, which he said was caused in part by suppressed childhood trauma, for his actions in a letter to the judge scheduled to sentence him next week.

William “Rick” Singer, 62, who pleaded guilty in March 2019 to charges including racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 4 in U.S. District Court in Boston for running the scheme that federal investigators dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.

More than 50 people, including parents, coaches, and others, have already been convicted in the case that involved bribes, embellished athletic accomplishments, and entrance exam cheating to get often undeserving children from wealthy families into some of the most selective universities in the U.S.

In documents submitted to the court on Wednesday, prosecutors asked the judge to give Singer six years, which would be by far the longest sentence in the case. Defense attorneys asked for a year of home confinement, or a maximum of six months behind bars.

“For most of my life, if not all of it, I have thrived on winning at all costs,” Singer wrote in a letter included in his defense’s sentencing memorandum. “My moral compass was broken and, increasingly over time, choosing right over wrong became less important than doing whatever had to be done to be recognized as the ‘best.'”

He expressed remorse in the letter, said he now lives in a trailer park for seniors and can’t get a job despite more than 1,000 attempts.

By getting caught, he has been provided “the opportunity for insight, atonement, and redemption,” he wrote.

His attorneys, citing Singer’s acceptance of responsibility, his cooperation with the government’s investigation, and his lifetime of helping children, recommended a sentence of one year of home confinement, three years of probation and 750 hours of community service. If the judge decides prison time is warranted, they asked for a maximum of six months behind bars.

“His unwanted notoriety has left him unemployable, depriving him of his self-esteem,” the defense wrote. “He has tried to rebuild by volunteering in his community. He has boundless energy and ideas about programming for youth and the underserved. He would be an asset to society if permitted after sentencing to continue his community service efforts.”

One of Singer’s attorneys, Candice Fields, said in an email Thursday that she did not have any further comment.

Singer took in more than $25 million from his clients, paid bribes totaling more than $7 million, and used more than $15 million of his clients’ money for his own benefit, according to prosecutors, who said his pivotal role in the scandal merits a six-year sentence.

“Staggering in scope, Singer’s scheme was also breathtaking in its audacity and the levels of deception it involved,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum. “His corruption and manipulation of others were practically limitless. Singer is far and away the most culpable of the Varsity Blues defendants — by orders of magnitude — and is therefore deserving of the longest sentence,” despite his cooperation with investigators, they said.

Prosecutors also asked for three years of probation, nearly $11 million in restitution to the IRS, and forfeiture of about $8.7 million.

A voicemail seeking comment was left with a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston.

The longest sentence in the case so far has gone to former Georgetown University tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who got 2 1/2 years in prison for pocketing more than $3 million in bribes.

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College scandal middleman blames ‘winning at all costs’