A key tip that led to what authorities describe as the largest college admissions cheating scandal ever came from a Los Angeles parent who was under investigation in an unrelated securities case, according to a law enforcement source.
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, could not identify the parent but said the subject provided vital information that launched the investigation.
The sweeping scandal has led to criminal charges against numerous wealthy and powerful Southern California residents, including two Hollywood actresses, a famous fashion designer, a best-selling self-help author and the former CEO of a global investment firms.
It’s unclear whether the parent who aided authorities was listed in the criminal indictment filed Tuesday by federal prosecutors in Boston.
The scheme, which began in 2011, centered on a Newport Beach college placement firm run by Rick Singer. Wealthy parents paid Singer to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and to falsify athletic records of students to enable them to secure admission to elite schools, including UCLA, the University of Southern California, Stanford, Yale and Georgetown, according to court records.
According to court papers, the scam unraveled last year when one of Singer’s coaches decided to go off on his own and work directly with a parent.
Rudy Meredith, Yale’s women’s soccer coach for more than two decades, had previously helped Singer fake the soccer credentials of a child of a Singer client. But in spring 2018, he solicited a bribe directly from the father of a second Yale applicant, whom the Department of Justice designated as “Yale Applicant 2.”
What the coach did not know was that the parent took the proposal to federal prosecutors because the parent was already charged in a stock fraud and was looking to cut a deal, according to the court papers.
The source could not confirm whether the father of “Yale Applicant 2” is the L.A. parent.
Meredith met with the father in a Boston hotel room, which the FBI had wiretapped, according to court records.
At this meeting, the father paid Meredith $2,000 and agreed to eventually spend $450,000 on the effort.
Meredith began cooperating with the government’s investigation with the hope of receiving leniency when he is sentenced, according to the government.
He has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and conspiracy.
Information about the L.A. parent was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Prosecutors allege that Singer instructed parents to donate funds to a fake charity he had established as part of the scheme. Most of the parents paid at least $200,000, but some spent up to $6.5 million to guarantee their children admission to top universities, authorities said. The parents were then able to deduct the donation from their income taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
The scheme itself was fairly simple, prosecutors said: Singer instructed parents to seek extended time for their children on ACT and SAT exams. In at least one instance, a student claimed to have a learning disability to obtain medical documentation required by the College Board and ACT Inc. to grant additional time on the tests, according to court documents.
Prosecutors alleged the parents’ money was also used in some cases to bribe university athletic coaches and administrators to designate applicants as athletic recruits regardless of their athletic abilities and, in some cases, even though they didn’t play the sport.
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