Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is a 2021 film that’s part documentary, part reenactment.
10 out of 10 stars. Well done. The filmmakers presented a reenactment alongside clips from the actual FBI agents, wiretaps, recorded conversations (by Singer), and the news.
In 2011 Rick Singer was living in Sacramento, California and working as a college counselor. People would pay him anywhere from $300 and hour to $1500 an hour to consult with them on getting their children into college. Over the next 8 years, he would move to Newport Beach, California, buy an expensive mansion, buy an expensive fleet of cars, and charge at least $300,000 per client for his services. Everyone wondered how he could afford this lifestyle then his clients were arrested in February 2019 in one of the most public FBI stings in U.S. history.
Here’s Rick Singer’s scam:
- Front Door entry – this is where a student gets in based on their academic merit and athletic ability.
- Back Door entry – this is where the parents donate a minimum of $50 million and as much as $500 million to the university to get their kid in. Although universities claim that this just gets their kid a second look by the admissions board, it gets them in 99% of the time.
- Side Door entry – this was Rick Singer’s niche. He had coaches and athletic directors in Ivy league and sought after universities (UCLA and USC) he paid to get students in through fake athletic abilities. The coaches never expected these students to show up for practice or to be part of the team. Singer charged $300,000 to $500,000 for this service with an additional $400,000 to $700,000 to the coach’s department. He claimed to have placed 730 side door admissions in a single year to more than 50 schools.
- The Key Worldwide – this was Singer’s non-profit foundation where he laundered the money he received for these crimes. Parents made payments directly to the foundation then took tax write-offs. So they earned tax deductions for the money they paid Singer.
In order for Singer’s “side door” entry method to work, he would get the parents to take photos of their kids posing for that particular sport and Singer would photoshop the image onto an actual player’s photo, so it would appear they had actually participated in this sport. Singer would have the parents go to a doctor and claim their child was “special needs” so they would get extended time for ACT and SAT exams then he paid Mark Riddell to proctor those exams for $75,000. The student would take the exam, writing their answers on a piece of paper rather than the test, then after they left, Riddell would take the exam and ace it. For the students who didn’t even want to take the exam, Singer would get samples of their handwriting and send it to Riddell then he would take the exam for them. And in the last piece, Singer would outright lie on the student’s college application about what they had achieved and their high school experience.
Here’s a list of some of Rick Singer’s clients who paid to get their kids into colleges they otherwise would never have been admitted to:
- Gordon Caplan, a lawyer in Greenwich, Connecticut.
- Bill McLashan – TPG Capital CEO.
- John B. Wilson – businessman.
- Molly Zhao
- Agustin Huneeus – Napa vineyard owner.
- Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli – actress and fashion designer.
- Olivia Jade Giannulli – influencer.
- Felicity Huffman – actress.
- Michelle Janavs – Hot Pockets heiress who called her older daughter “stupid”.
- Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez – Atherton, California businessman.
- Stephen Semprevivo – Los Angeles businessman.
- Davina and Bruce Isackson – real estate tycoon.
Coaches and athletic directors who were part of this scam:
- Rudy Meredith – Yale soccer coach who was arrested by the FBI on a securities charge. In exchange for no jail time, Rudy gave the FBI the entire Rick Singer network.
- John Vandemoer – Stanford sailing team.
- Donna Heinel – atheltic director at USC. She was paid $20,000 each month by Singer and was prolific in the number of students she placed in USC athletics that never participated in the sports for which they were given admittance.
- Jovan Vavic – USC water polo coach.
- Mark Riddell – Harvard alumni who took the ACT and SAT students under student’s names.
- Gordie Ernst – Georgetown University tennis coach.
10 out of 10 stars. What surprised me most was how Lori Loughlin’s PR team made her and her husband sound innocent. They were caught on wiretaps openly talking about covering up what they’d done with Olivia Jade’s high school counselor who knew she had never participated in crew and had no athletic ability at all. Mossimo even threatened the high school counselor. Olivia Jade posed for the fake photos and knew they were being photoshopped so she could pretend to be on crew and get into USC. That’s sickening.