Analysts believe that the FBI’s impressive bust of dozens of parents corrupting the college-admissions process represents just the tip of the iceberg. The man in charge of the conspiracy broken in Operation Varsity Blues agrees — and that’s just Rick Singer’s part of the iceberg. Singer told investigators that he had well over 700 other students that he pushed through the “side door” of bribery and fraud:
The ringleader behind a $25 million college admission scam that implicated dozens of people, including Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, said he has worked with more than 750 families.
William Rick Singer, who pleaded guilty Tuesday in a Boston federal court to racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges, said in a phone conversation recorded by the FBI that he helps “the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school.”
Singer said he facilitated 761 “side doors” to admission.
That’s a mighty big number. The indictment yesterday charged fifty people in the conspiracy, but that included bribed coaches and proctors who benefited directly from the bribes and corruption, not just parents. The scope of just this conspiracy is much larger, and might encompass schools and officials that managed to miss the first round of indictments yesterday.
Singer’s former clients, and for that matter any other coaches or school officials too, face a tough choice. They could sit quietly and hope that the feds can’t gather enough evidence to pursue any other targets, but that doesn’t look like a very good strategy. Singer is apparently living up to his surname, talking to the feds now that he faces decades behind bars. If Singer kept records, the FBI and its forensic accountants will not take long to figure out where the money came from and where it went. At that point, the warrants and indictments will flow once more, and likely much more broadly.
The other option would be to lawyer up and start offering cooperation, but most of Singer’s clients might not be temperamentally inclined toward voluntary humility. It’s curious why Loughlin and Huffman didn’t wise up enough to make that choice up front, but this whole alleged bribery/fraud ring was predicated on the wealthy and the celebrities believing they were the smartest people in the room. They may still think they can outwit or at least out-run the FBI and the Department of Justice.
We can bet that after putting this much effort into the first phase of Operation Varsity Blues, which already qualifies as the largest college-admissions fraud ever exposed by law enforcement, the DoJ will not be shy about keeping its momentum going. They already know that they have plenty more potential cases to make in a case that will make celebrities out of the attorneys who prosecute these wealthy and dilettante parents, especially if some of the defendants are celebrities themselves. How much does anyone want to bet that Singer’s Hollywood connections end with just a Desperate Housewife and a Fuller House mom?
Here’s the coverage from ABC on Good Morning America earlier today. “This story isn’t over,” George Stephanopoulos remarks, and that’s an understatement. This story has so much going for it that it might even push Adam Schiff off of television, assuming it can rent a bulldozer to accomplish that feat.