Mastermind of College Admission Bribery Scam Rick Singer Sentenced to 3.5 Years in Jail

The mastermind of a massive college admissions scandal, William “Rick” Singer, was sentenced to 3.5 years in federal prison on Dec. 4 for charges of racketeering and money laundering conspiracy; marking the largest sentence to be handed down as part of the 2019 bribery scandal that plagued some of America’s most prestigious universities.

In addition to time behind bars, Singer, 62, was also sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service by Judge Rya Zobel. That is for his failure to pay taxes on the proceeds of his illegal scheme, according to the judge.

Singer must also forfeit millions more in money and assets, roughly $8.7 million, to the government. The former college admissions consultant must report to prison on Feb. 27, the judge said.

Singer was the mastermind and central figure in one of the biggest college admissions fraud schemes ever uncovered by investigators. In 2019, he admitted to his role in the scheme, through which he would help wealthy parents who were desperate to get their children into elite universities such as Yale University, Stanford University, and Georgetown University, to do so by receiving large sums of money in return for facilitating cheating on college entrance exams.

He also admitted to bribing university coaches and athletics officials to secure the admission of wealthy parents’ children by creating fake sports profiles that made it look as if they were sports stars and amping up their athletic ability. In many cases, the children didn’t even play some of the sports they were allegedly stars in, prosecutors said.

Rick Singer
William “Rick” Singer, front, founder of the Edge College & Career Network, exits federal court in Boston, Mass.,  on March 12, 2019. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

‘Most Massive Fraud Ever Perpetuated on the Higher Education System’

The bribes received by Singer were typically funneled through his sham charity, Key Worldwide Foundation, and disguised as charitable donations, allowing parents to deduct the payments from their federal income taxes.

Actress Lori Loughlin who starred in “Full House”, her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, and “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman were among the 57 people convicted as part of the scheme.

Singer initially pleaded guilty in March 2019 to charges including racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy as part of the scheme. He also pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for tipping off a number of his clients about the FBI’s investigation into the scheme, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.”

Singer was never called by the government as a witness in the cases that went to trial.

Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence him to six years in prison, with assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank telling judge Zobel that not imposing a significant prison sentence on Singer  would send a “devastating message that fraud pays and obstruction of justice pays.”

“This defendant was responsible for the most massive fraud ever perpetuated on the higher education system in the United States,” Frank said.

However, Singer’s lawyers, Candice Fields, and A. Neil Hartzell, had argued that their client should be sentenced to three years of probation and a maximum of six months behind bars if the judge ruled incarceration was necessary.

His lawyers cited his 2018 cooperation with federal agents during the investigation as reasoning for a reduced sentence, arguing that he did “did whatever was necessary” to help the government’s investigation into the scheme and took great personal risk by wearing a wire to record meetings for investigators.

Felicity Huffman arrives with her brother
Actress Felicity Huffman arrives with her brother Moore Huffman Jr., at federal court in Boston, Mass., where she was scheduled to plead guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal on May 13, 2019. (Steven Senne/AP Photo)

‘To Be Frank, I’m Ashamed of Myself’

They also argued that the investigation only became widely known because of the number of influential and celebrity defendants that were prosecuted.

But judge Zobel ultimately handed down a longer sentence on Wednesday.

During his court appearance on Wednesday, Singer apologized to his family and the schools that were part of the scheme, telling the judge: “I lost my ethical values and have so much regret. To be frank, I’m ashamed of myself,” CNN reports.

He vowed to spend the rest of his life working to make a positive impact in people’s lives.

Singer is among 57 people charged as part of the Operation Varsity Blues investigation, including 33 parents, 13 coaches, college test administrators, and business executives, as well as other associates of the former college admissions consultant.

Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison in September 2019  after pleading guilty but ultimately only served 11 due to a policy that allows inmates whose release date falls on a weekend to be released the Friday before. Loughlin received two months behind bars, while Giannulli received five months.

Prior to Singer’s sentencing on Wednesday, the longest sentence handed down in the case went to former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison last summer for pocketing more than $3 million in bribes as part of the scheme.

In total, Singer received more than $25 million from his many clients while running a California-based college admissions counseling service called “The Key” as well as Key Worldwide Foundation. Additionally, he paid out bribes amounting to more than $7 million to coaches and administrators at elite schools and used more than $15 million of his client’s money for his own benefit, according to prosecutors.

The Epoch Times has contacted Singer’s lawyers for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Katabella Roberts

Katabella Roberts is a news writer for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and business news.

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