It was quite the mission statement.
There were the normal channels – which rich people did not want to be “messing around with”, he said. And then there was the back door and the side door.
But the side door – the one that Singer had his foot jammed in and has drawn the attention of the authorities – was more accessible.
He could guarantee success, he said. All you had to do was make a “financial commitment”.
Police named their investigation after the 1999 film Varsity Blues, starring James Van Der Beek
On Tuesday, reams of FBI documents were unsealed from “Operation Varsity Blues”, an investigation named after a 1990s film about the pressures of sports scholarships.
“I have never seen anything like this,” Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of Insight Into Diversity magazine, which is dedicated to making higher education and business more inclusive in the US. “The depth of it, the number of people involved, the amounts of money. It’s mindboggling.”
According to the FBI, she was responding to news – in October 2017 – that her daughter’s school wanted to use their own exam invigilator, rather than a compromised one who would be able to boost her scores.
She allegedly emailed her concerns to Mr Singer. “We will speak about it,” he reportedly replied.
William “Rick” Singer has pleaded guilty to charges
Rick Singer, a Californian life coach in his late 50s, presented himself as an expert in the university admissions process.
He wrote books about it, including the self-published Getting In: Gaining Admission to Your College of Choice, which opened with an inspirational quote from Nelson Mandela.
However, he kept his more illicit techniques within a closer circle.
The FBI has traced his scam back to 2011. It is not known if this was a particular turning point in his three-decade career.
In 2014, he founded a non-profit organisation called Key Worldwide, which claimed to help “disadvantaged students around the world“. The website said it would “open doors” for young people escaping troubles such as gang violence.
However, according to the authorities, the organisation functioned as a slush fund. It became a façade through which payments could be funnelled as “charity donations”. Singer pocketed some of the cash and paid the rest in bribes to those who could help him get the results he guaranteed.
Over time he had developed two possible paths to success. One would involve manipulating exam results. The other would involve securing special treatment – most typically via faked sporting prowess.
Singer had connections there.
It is alleged that he would typically suggest his clients faked learning disabilities for their children and then, once they got a medical certificate, they would be granted extra time and could make a more believable case for switching to external exam centre.
Apparently, this was not enough.
The next step involved bringing in someone else to take the test for her.
Who is Mark Riddell?
According to the FBI, he would fly in, take the test for students in a hotel room, or sneak them the correct answers in the exam room, or inflate their scores when they finished. Sometimes he would be given a sample of the teen’s handwriting so he could copy it.
Mark Riddell has pled guilty and apologised
The couple – who met in the early 80s and married in 1997 – are not usually caught in negative headlines. Macy’s hobbies reportedly include woodturning and playing the ukulele, while Huffman has been running a wholesome parenting site, What The Flicka, based on her childhood nickname.
They have been known to post loving messages to each other on social media.
Early on Tuesday morning, FBI agents turned up at their door.
Only Huffman was indicted. The crime she stands accused of relates to mail fraud, which is when communication methods are used to conduct a scheme that intentionally deprives another of property or honest services. Macy has not been charged.
Neither has commented publicly.
In real life, her older daughter’s exam score jumped 400 points – a huge leap – after Singer’s involvement, it is claimed.
The sports scam
Singer was taking students with no prowess, and turning them into sporting stars on their applications, it is claimed.
In some cases he would arrange for their heads to be Photoshopped on to more sporty bodies. In others, their basic stats would be manipulated – one basketball player had his height changed from 5ft 5in to 6ft 1in, presumably betting on a once-you’re-in-you’re-in outcome.
Meredith – as well as Singer and Riddell – have been working with the police, hoping to reduce their sentences.
“Student athletes often have excellent leadership qualities and excel both in the classroom and on the field, recognising that makes sense for colleges looking for the best students,” says Eric Yaverbaum, author of Life’s Little College Admissions Insights.
“The hard work it requires to be a student athlete is what makes the fact that some of these parents took advantage of this route so disturbing. It’s appalling that some parents and coaches betrayed those students by buying and selling those coveted positions.”
However, the couple allegedly spent $500,000 to get them into University of Southern California by presenting them as accomplished rowers. They have not commented since the charge were filed.
LLori Loughlin’s daughters in spotlight
Actress free on bail over college scam
After getting her place, their youngest daughter, Olivia Jade, made matters worse by bragging online, saying she would rather be concentrating on her Instagram career. She is an influencer and has 1.3 million followers.
“I don’t know how much of school I’m gonna attend but I’m gonna go in and talk to my deans and everyone, and hope that I can try and balance it all,” she said on her YouTube channel. “But I do want the experience of like game days, partying… I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”
She has since apologised for her comments, but the backlash has been huge.
“We knew the system was unfair (after all, wealthy parents can pay for multiple test retakes and expensive tutoring, and the wealthiest can pledge large donations to a school just as their children are applying), but we didn’t know wealthy parents were taking it even further. In either case, it only reiterates the need for the admissions process to be re-evaluated.”
In recent days, the US media has uncovered that Loughlin’s Full House character, Aunt Becky, was also involved in a school cheating story – perhaps indicating just how common the idea is, at least in theory.
In real life, however, the story unfolding in the news has outdone the scriptwriters.
Though the focus may have been on the two actresses so far, the rest of the cast of real-life characters is almost as intriguing.
One of the many questions outstanding is – who will play whom in the inevitable TV adaption?