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Hollywood Stars, Executives Charged in College Admission Plot


12 March, 2019

American government lawyers on Tuesday charged 49 people in a $25-million plot to reportedly buy admission to top colleges. The schools involved include Yale, Stanford and Georgetown University.

Those charged include Hollywood actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, test administrators, business leaders and college coaches.

Federal lawyers in Boston accused William Singer of organizing the reported plot. Singer owns the college counseling business Edge College & Career Network, as well as an organization called The Key Worldwide Foundation.

The lawyers said Singer offered people up to $75,000 to take college entrance exams for students.They also accused him of paying college coaches to accept students as sports players even if they had never played the sport. In some cases, the lawyers said, Singer worked with parents to create false academic and athletic successes for the students, including putting student's faces on the images of real athletes in action.

U.S. Attorney for District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling announces indictments in a sweeping college admissions bribery scandal, during a news conference, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
U.S. Attorney for District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling announces indictments in a sweeping college admissions bribery scandal, during a news conference, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

U.S. attorney Andrew Lelling said the plot was set up to guarantee admissions to top colleges for students, in his words, "not on their merits, but through fraud."

Lelling said Singer used Key Worldwide Foundation as a front for parents to pay for the services. He said parents paid between $100,000 to $6.5 million for the services. Some of the parents reportedly claimed the payment as charitable donations to lower their taxes.

Lelling said Singer then used the money to bribe college coaches and test administrators.

Lelling said Yale University's women's soccer coach took $400,000 to accept a student who did not even play soccer at a competitive level. That student's family reportedly paid Singer $1.2 million for the service.

Lelling called the plot the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department.

The accused parents reportedly sought to help their children get admitted to schools including University of California - Los Angeles, University of Southern California, and University of Texas.

However, Lelling said the colleges were not involved in the plot.

Singer admitted guilt to the charges.

Lelling also charged 33 parents with involvement in the plot. They included actors Felicity Huffman, known for her role in the television show Desperate Housewives, and Lori Loughlin, who appeared in another long-running show called Full House.

Among wealthy business leaders charged were Manuel Henriquez, the chief of Hercules Capital; Gamal Abdelaziz, president of Wynn Resorts Development; Gordon Caplan, head of the well-known international law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher; and Gregory Abbott, founder and chairman of International Dispensing Company.

During a phone call with one wealthy parent, Singer reportedly said of his business: "What we do is help the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school..."

I'm Caty Weaver.

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.

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Words in This Story

coach - n. a person who trains an athlete or sports team

athletic - adj. relating to sports

merit - n. the quality of being good, value or worth

fraud - n. the crime of using dishonest methods to take something valuable away from another person

charitable - adj. designed to help poor people

bribe - n. something (such as money) that is given in order to get someone to do something

scam - n. a dishonest way to make money by deceiving people

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