BOSTON, Sept 13 (Reuters) – The first trial in the “Operation Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal gets under way on Monday. Here is a look at the key figures and the fallout from the probe.
Federal prosecutors accused 57 people in the largest U.S. college admissions fraud scheme ever uncovered. In it, wealthy people aimed to gain their children spots at elite universities by falsifying entrance exams and bribing coaches to treat them as recruited athletes.
Those charged include parents, the consultant who designed the scheme and university athletic officials.
Forty-six people, including 32 parents, have pleaded guilty. Among them was California college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer who designed the scheme.
Parents pleading guilty included actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman; Loughlin’s fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli; former TPG Capital executive Bill McGlashan; Michelle Janavs, whose family’s company created the microwavable snack Hot Pockets; and former Hercules Capital Inc CEO Manuel Henriquez.
Federal prosecutors have said more guilty pleas are possible. Gordon Ernst, a former tennis coach at Georgetown University, is in plea talks, his lawyer has said.
PLEADED NOT GUILTY
The two fathers standing trial on Monday are former casino executive Gamal Aziz, 64, and private equity firm founder John Wilson, 62. They are among those who have pleaded not guilty.
The judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton, has ordered joint trials for the pair and another group of parents who say they are not guilty. Palo Alto residents Gregory and Amy Colburn and businessman I-Hin “Joey” Chen will face trial in January.
Several college athletic officials charged with accepting bribes have denied wrongdoing as well. In November, Jovan Vavic, former USC water polo coach; Donna Heinel, former senior associate athletic director at the school; and William Ferguson, former volleyball coach at USC and Wake Forest University, will face trial.
Singer, who is a cooperating witness for the government, has not yet been sentenced.
Loughlin and Huffman received two months and five months in prison, respectively. Douglas Hodge, former chief executive of investment firm Pimco, received the longest sentence of any defendant, nine months in prison.
Parents have also lost high-powered jobs and had to pay fines and perform community service. Beyond prison time, Hodge received two years supervised release, 500 hours of community service and a $750,000 fine.
Former President Donald Trump pardoned one parent, Miami investor Robert Zangrillo.
None of the children were charged in the case. Most of the parents said their children were unaware of the activity.
When the scandal broke in 2019, colleges including Yale, Georgetown and Stanford withdrew admissions offers or expelled students. Huffman’s daughter was flying to an audition at the acclaimed Juilliard School when the school rescinded the invitation, her father wrote the court.
But a small number of the children were allowed to matriculate or remain enrolled.
The teenagers also faced public embarrassment. One mother told the court that her daughter started having panic attacks. Janavs’ two daughters were banned by their private high school from being on campus and attending events including graduation and prom.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Cynthia Osterman