AUSTIN (KXAN) — FBI investigators and federal prosecutors busted the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice, officials announced in a press conference Tuesday. Fifty people were charged in connection with the scam including a University of Texas at Austin coach.
UT Tennis Coach Michael Center along with Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were among those charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in connection with the scheme. Two Houston-area people are accused of accepting bribes: Lisa Williams, an ACT administrator, and Martin Fox, who was the president of a private tennis academy and camp.
Here is a copy of Coach Center’s affidavit:
Students who were involved in the scheme attended or tried to attend UT, Georgetown, Stanford, UCLA, the University of San Diego, USC, Wake Forest and Yale.
Participants in the scheme allegedly helped students cheat on college entrance exams and helped students get admission to elite schools through the athletics track despite having no athletic abilities.
The people charged in the scam include:
- Three people who organized the scams
- Two SAT or ACT test administrators
- One exam proctor
- One college administrator
- Nine coaches at elite schools
- 33 parents
Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office say the parents guaranteed their kids’ admission in elite schools by paying huge sums of money as bribes.
Several NCAA Division 1 coaches were indicted in this scheme.
“In return for bribes, these coaches agreed to pretend that certain applicants were recruited competitive athletes, when in fact the applicants were not,” an official with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “As the coaches knew, the students’ athletic credentials had been fabricated.”
Among those charged is UT tennis coach Michael Center. KPRC reports in 2015, Houston-area tennis academy president Fox introduced scam ringleader William Singer to a UT tennis coach to gain admission for a student. The coach and Fox both allegedly received $100,000. The student didn’t play tennis competitively, but was reportedly admitted and was a recruit for the team.
After news broke of his indictment in the bribery scheme, UT officials issued a statement Tuesday that read:
“Federal authorities notified us this morning that we were victims of an organized criminal effort involving admissions. We have just become aware of charges against our Men’s Tennis Coach Michael Center and he will be placed on administrative leave until further notice while we gather information. We are cooperating fully with the investigation. Integrity in admissions is vital to the academic and ethical standards of our university.”
Singer, the owner of Key Worldwide Foundation in California, was a central figure in the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He will plead guilty Tuesday on charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.
“Between 2011 and 2018, wealthy parents paid Singer about $25 million total to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools,” officials said. “Beyond enriching himself, Singer used that money to bribe college officials, Division 1 coaches, college exam administrators, all to secure admission for the children of his clients, not on their merits but through fraud.”
Parents allegedly paid Singer between $15,000 and $75,000 for someone to take the SAT or ACT for their child or to correct their child’s answers afterward.