If you were under a rock yesterday then you didn’t hear about the FBI sting that took down dozens of parents who bribed William Rick Singer to help their kids get into some of the most prestigious schools in the U.S. Or, as Singer put it, “What we do is help the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school.”1

The news was everywhere.

These parents, some of them famous (Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin), “faked disabilities…photoshopped faces onto different students’ bodies,”1 and paid millions in bribes to ensure that their children could get into schools like “Georgetown; Yale; Stanford; the University of Texas; the University of Southern California; the University of California, Los Angeles; and others.”2

“The founder of The Key, William Rick Singer, who later cooperated with the FBI in the investigation, sold his clients on a “side door” to college admissions, which involved paying off coaches and administrators, according to charging documents. Between 2011 and 2018, they paid college officials about $25 million in all to designate their children as recruited athletes — regardless of their athletic abilities — or put them on other favored admissions lists.

Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the government and obstruction of justice.

Coaches at Georgetown, USC, UCLA and other schools face racketeering charges.”2

Thanks to USA Today, we have a breakdown of exactly how this happened.

First, 1

  • The Edge College and Career Network would help set up bribes of administrators of exams like the SAT or ACT; either someone else took the test for the student, the students were given answers during the test, or the test was revised after the fact
  • Often, parents would have to lie about their children either having a learning disability or having a previous engagement so they could take the test in a less controlled area
  • Scammers would submit staged or doctored photos of students who were not athletes, so they could clear lower admissions standards into elite colleges (normally, academic requirements for these slots are less stringent than they would be for a traditional student)

Second, 1

  • Parents often would donate to a charity set up by Singer: the Key World Foundation. That charity would then donate to coaches or to university programs chosen by coaches
  • Once the bribe was provided, the coach would then say the student was an athlete, regardless of her or his physical prowess
  • Parents also got a tax break for donating to the charity

“Clients of the network would pay between $15,000 and $75,000 per test. In one case, the family of one student paid $1.6 million for admission to Yale University. Tuition at the university along with fees, room and board runs $72,100 annually. In fall 2017, the Ivy League university, considered to be one of the most prestigious in the country, admitted just 7 percent of those who applied.”1

According to prosecutors, there might still be more people charged; one of the cooperating witnesses said they had worked the athletic scam with roughly 800 families.

We will update you as more information becomes available!


  1. USA Today
  2. Politico