Federal agents arrested dozens of people–some of them well-known names in tech and business circles–in a nationwide scam to get their children in through the “side door” of some of the country’s leading universities. Details about the scam, and the 50 people accused in it, were unsealed in Boston on Tuesday.
The man at the center of the scandal, Rick Singer, took money from wealthy parents to bribe college entrance exam administrators and university coaches. He paid third parties to take college entrance exams on behalf of clients’ children.
Following is an FBI recording of Singer making his pitch to a parent:
“Okay, so, who we are…what we do is we help the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school…My families want a guarantee. So, if you said to me ‘here’s our grades, here’s our scores, here’s our ability, and we want to go to X school’ and you give me one or two schools, and then I’ll go after those schools and try to get a guarantee done.”
Among Singer’s clients, Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin have gotten most of the attention. But a variety of well-heeled people paid him big bucks to fix the college-acceptance process, including business executives. In tech circles the best-known of Singer’s customers is TPG Growth founder Bill McGlashan, who was an early investor in Uber and Airbnb. McGlashan has been a vocal proponent of “ethical” and socially-conscious investing. He’s accused of mailing pictures of his son–Photoshopped to look like a football kicker–to USC admissions in an effort get the applicant in via a sports scholarship. McGlashan was apparently taking direction from Singer. McGlashan also allegedly made a $250,000 donation to the school.
The correspondence between the two men is priceless:
“I’m gonna make him a kicker/punter and they’re gonna walk him through with football, and I’ll get a picture and figure out how to Photoshop,” Singer wrote to McGlashan in August 2018.
“He does have really strong legs,” McGlashan responded. “Maybe he’ll become a kicker. You never know.”
“Pretty funny,” McGlashan added later. “The way the world works these days is unbelievable.”
Jane Buckingham, chief executive of a Los Angeles boutique marketing firm Trendera, allegedly paid $50,000 for someone to take a college entrance exam for her son. Peter Jan Sartorio, president of the organic food maker Elena’s Food Specialties, is also among the accused, as are venture capitalists Bob Zangrillo of Dragon Global, Manuel Henriquez of Hercules Capital, and private equity investor John Wilson.
You can read the full list here.