Convictions, prison time: A look at college admissions scam

Jan 3, 2023, 8:25 PM | Updated: Jan 4, 2023, 1:12 pm
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)

BOSTON (AP) — More than 50 people were convicted in the sprawling college admissions bribery scheme that embroiled elite universities across the country and landed a slew of prominent parents and athletic coaches behind bars.

The case dubbed Operation Varsity Blues by authorities revealed a scheme to get the children of rich parents into top-tier schools with fake athletic credentials and bogus entrance exam scores.

The ringleader of the scheme, corrupt admissions consultant Rick Singer, was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison on Wednesday, nearly four years after the first arrests were made in March 2019.

Here’s a look at the Varsity Blues investigation and where the cases stand now:


Federal investigators stumbled across the scandal after an executive they were targeting in an unrelated securities fraud scheme told them that a Yale soccer coach had offered to help his daughter get into the school in exchange for bribes. Authorities set up a sting in a Boston hotel room in April 2018 and recorded the coach, Rudy Meredith, soliciting a bribe from the father.

Investigators heard Singer’s name for the first time when Meredith mentioned him during that meeting. Meredith began cooperating that same month with investigators, who recorded phone calls and an in-person meeting between himself and Singer that revealed the extent of the bribery scheme.

Authorities then convinced Singer to cooperate with them and to record incriminating phone calls and in-person meetings with those involved with his scheme. His cooperation helped prosecutors build the case against dozens of parents, coaches and others.


Of the more than 50 people charged in the case, all but a handful ended up pleading guilty.

Among the most high-profile parents who admitted to charges were “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who paid $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits, even though neither of them played the sport. They helped create fake athletic profiles for their daughters by sending Singer photos of the teens posing on rowing machines.

Others who pleaded guilty include “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, who paid $15,000 to boost her older daughter’s SAT scores.

An heir to the Hot Pockets fortune also admitted to paying Singer $100,000 to have a proctor correct her two daughters’ ACT exam answers. The former chairman of a global law firm, the onetime chief executive of a media company and a former owner of a California wine business were among others who pleaded guilty.

Only two parents accused of working with Singer ended up going to trial. Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive, and John Wilson, a former Staples Inc. executive, were both convicted at trial last year.

Abdelaziz, of Las Vegas, was charged with paying $300,000 to get his daughter into the University of Southern California as a basketball recruit even though she didn’t even make it onto her high school’s varsity team.

Wilson, who heads a Massachusetts private equity firm, was accused of paying $220,000 to have his son designated as a USC water polo recruit and an additional $1 million to buy his twin daughters’ ways into Harvard and Stanford. They have both appealed their convictions to the federal appeals court in Boston.


Before Singer’s sentence, the longest sentence in the case had gone to Gordon Ernst, the former Georgetown University tennis coach who once coached former President Barack Obama’s family. He was sentenced in July to 2 1/2 years in prison for pocketing more than $3 million in bribes in exchange for helping parents cheat their kids’ way into the school.

Jorge Salcedo, a former University of California, Los Angeles, men’s soccer coach, was sentenced to eight months behind bars for accepting $200,000 in bribes to designate applicants as athletic recruits. Michael Center, a former men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin, was sentenced to six months in prison for taking a $100,000 bribe

Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison while Giannulli got five months behind bars. Huffman was sentenced to 14 days. Some parents avoided prison time entirely. The toughest punishment among the parents went to Wilson, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison. A judge has allowed Wilson to remain free while he appeals his conviction.


Just before leaving office, President Donald Trump pardoned Robert Zangrillo, a prominent Miami developer and investor who was charged with paying $250,000 to get his daughter into USC as a transfer in 2018.

William Ferguson, a former Wake Forest University coach, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with prosecutors that will make the case against him go away with the payment of a fine as long as he follows certain conditions.

A judge in September ordered a new trial for Jovan Vavic, the former USC water polo coach accused of taking more than $200,000 in bribes. Jurors found Vavic guilty, but the judge concluded that some evidence introduced by the government in Vavic’s fraud and bribery case was unreliable and that prosecutors erred in their argument to jurors about some of the alleged bribe money.

One parent linked to the case, Amin Khoury, was acquitted of charges that he paid off a Georgetown University tennis coach to get his daughter into the school. Khoury wasn’t accused of working with Singer, but authorities alleged he used a middleman he was friends with in college at Brown University to bribe Ernst.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - Zoubin Ghahramani, vice president of research at Google, speaks at the Google AI@ event on W...
Associated Press

Google has the next move as Microsoft embraces OpenAI buzz

Before the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT was unleashed into the world, the novelist Robin Sloan was testing a similar AI writing assistant built by researchers at Google.
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Group’s lawsuit seeks to void Washington transportation law

A conservative legal advocacy organization is suing to halt the nearly $17 billion transportation funding bill passed by the Washington Legislature and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee last year.
13 hours ago
Associated Press

Dance hall 911 caller: ‘He might start shooting again’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A gunman had fired his first deadly shots outside a dance hall when Monterey Park police got a call for help from a man trying to make sense of what happened to his partner sitting in the car next to him. “Is your girlfriend awake?” the dispatcher asked. “I’m not sure,” […]
2 days ago
Cricket Hall speaks against a bill that would ban gender-affirming surgery and hormone therapy for ...
Associated Press

Crowds decry gender-affirming treatment ban in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Crowds at the West Virginia state Capitol pleaded with lawmakers Thursday to show as much compassion for saving the lives of transgender children as they showed for unborn fetuses when they voted to ban abortion just months ago. Over and over, dozens of doctors, parents and LGBTQ people told the Republican […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Closing prices for crude oil, gold and other commodities

Benchmark U.S. crude oil for March delivery fell 53 cents to $75.88 a barrel Thursday. Brent crude for April delivery fell 67 cents to $82.17 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline for March delivery was unchanged at $2.45 a gallon. March heating oil fell 5 cents $2.90 a gallon. March natural gas fell 1 cent to $2.46 […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

1 dead, officer wounded in shooting at Memphis library

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A shooting at a Tennessee library on Thursday left one person dead and a police officer “critically” wounded, authorities said. Officers were called to the Poplar-White Station Library around 12:30 p.m., the Memphis Police Department tweeted. Both the person and the officer were shot, police said. The person was pronounced dead […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Convictions, prison time: A look at college admissions scam