A criminal complaint released Tuesday by the Justice Department details what authorities allege was a years-long fraud scheme that enabled well-to-do parents to place their children in elite colleges and universities, despite the students’ academic shortcomings, by masking bribes as charitable donations.
How authorities say it worked:
Cheating on entrance exams. Fifty people were charged in connection with the alleged scheme, which officials say dates to 2011. Some are accused of bribing college entrance exam administrators to facilitate cheating by having a 36-year-old Florida man take the test on their behalf, providing students with test answers ahead of time or correcting their responses afterward, according to the criminal complaint.
Team spots for non-athletes. In other instances, authorities allege, school officials accepted bribes to say that incoming students, who would not be admitted otherwise, had been recruited to join athletic teams when, in fact, those students were not athletes. Authorities were careful to say that the investigation targeted specific employees and that no schools were accused of wrongdoing.
Bribes disguised as donations. Authorities alleged that a well-connected college admissions adviser, William Singer, masked the bribes by filtering them through a charity, the Key Worldwide Foundation. The individual bribes ranged in value from a few thousand dollars to more than $1 million, officials said. Singer, who pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with the alleged scheme, was charged with taking about $25 million between 2011 and 2018, according to the criminal complaint. In return, the students’ parents were able to deduct the bribes from their taxes, officials said.