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What Is Operation Varsity Blues? Everything You Need To Know About The College Admission Scam Featuring Felicity Huffman And Lori Loughlin, Among Others

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What Is Operation Varsity Blues? Everything You Need To Know About The College Admission Scam Featuring Felicity Huffman And Lori Loughlin, Among Others
Entertainment And News

This is so much bigger than we think.

Celebrities, CEOs and other rich, entitled people who participated in a scam to bribe officials to ensure their children get into elite universities including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, USC, and UCLA got a rude awakening on Tuesday March 12th when FBI agents stormed their homes and businesses and took them into custody in what is being called Operation Varsity Blues. The scandal originated with a man who helped prep kids for applying to college and has a few elements — from faking learning disabilities to bribing college coaches in order to get the kids accepted to the targeted universities. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling and the FBI uncovered 33 parents who collectively paid $25 million to William Rick Singer for what Lelling called the "widening corruption of elite college admissions." What is Operation Varsity Blues?

1. The mastermind

William Rick Singer is the founder of Edge College & Career Network, which is publicly known as the Key. It operates in 81 U.S. cities and six countries. It's website, which is now offlne, said that it was a referral-based college counseling service for "the world's most respected families." Singer also runs the non-profit foundation Key Worldwide Foundation which was reportedly used to take payments from his clients. His company offered rich parents an alternative way to get their kids into the country's elite universities. As part of his guilty plea in Operation Varsity Blues he said, “If I can make the comparison, there is a front door of getting in, where a student just does it on their own,” Singer stated as part of his guilty plea. “There’s a back door, where people go to institutional advancement and make large donations, but they’re not guaranteed in. And then I created a side door that guaranteed families to get in. So that was what made it very attractive to so many families, is I created a guarantee." 

2. The test taking scam

The scam had two categories. The first was cheating on college entrance exams by having kids take their SAT or ACT at a center that had been bought off. In exchange for bribes, the proctors either gave the kids unlimited time to take the test or helped them with it or in some cases, changed students' answers to the correct one to guarantee a high score. Mark Riddell, a Florida resident, was also paid to straight-up take the SAT or ACT for some kids. 

RELATED: Who Is Olivia Jade Giannulli? New Details About Lori Loughlin's Daughter Who's In The Middle Of The College Cheating Scheme

3. The athletic scam

The second category of the scam was making up fake background information to make kids look like athletes when they were not. Actress Lori Loughlin's daughters were made to look like they were crew superstars. A bribe was then paid to a senior official in USC's athletic department who made a case for the girls' as crew recruits with the admissions committee. In some cases, faces were photoshopped onto bodies of athletes to accompany applications. Loughlin's daughters got into USC as student athletes on the crew team even though they never participated in the sport. 

4. The fake charity and bribes

Bribes were paid by the wealthy parents to the Key Worldwide Foundation. Felicity Huffman wrote a check for $15,000 for the work the company did getting her eldest daughter into college. It was officially deemed a charitiable donation — which is wasn't, making it fraud. Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Guannulli paid a total of $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into USC. The test proctors who helped students with their SATs and ACTs were paid $40,000 for their role in the scam. In one of the phone transcripts related to Operation Varsity Blues, William Singer told Trendera CEO Jane Buckinham that in addition to getting her son a high ACT score, her bribe check will also be an IRS tax write off. "Oh, even better," she said.

RELATED: Who Is Lori Loughlin's Husband? New Details About Mossimo Giannulli — And The College Cheating Scam They Were Busted In Connection With

5. Fake learning disabilities

Kids who wanted better test scores had to be labeled with a learning disability. Singer helped parents fake medical records saying their kids had a learning disability that required extra time to take the test on their own time over the course of multiple days. Once that was handled, the kids were taken to one of Singer's two testing centers in Los Angeles and Houston. In order to get the medical documentation, Singer told his client, New York attorney Gordon Caplan that his daughter should pretend to "be stupid" when she met with her psychologists. "The goal is to be slow, to not be bright, all that, so we show discrepancies," he said. 

6. James Van Der Beek is slaying 

James Van Der Beek starred in the 1999 movie Varisity Blues  about a football team in Texas. He took to Twitter to mock Operation Varsity Blues using a well-known line from his character in that film. He referenced the moment in the film where he tells his dad he wants to determine his own fate. "Playing football at West Canaan may have been the opportunity of your lifetime, but I don't want your life," Van Der Beek's character Mox memorable said.

Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering entertainment, pop culture, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. She is deeply devoted to her chocolate Labrador and an avid long distance runner. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.