College admissions cheats set to cop pleas, may face jail time

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jserraglio
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College admissions cheats set to cop pleas, may face jail time

Post by jserraglio » Fri Mar 29, 2019 9:44 am

WSJ

Authorities weigh money-laundering charges, consider jail time for some

BOSTON—Federal authorities and at least some parents accused in the college-admissions cheating case are negotiating possible guilty pleas, according to people familiar with the matter.
Prison time may be included in pre-indictment plea deals, the people said. Nearly all the 33 parents accused in the case face a single charge of conspiring to commit what is known as honest-services fraud. Most haven’t been indicted.
The Wall Street Journal reported that prosecutors could add money laundering conspiracy charges for some of the parents as soon as next week. Two parents were indicted on such a charge on Tuesday.
Patric Hooper, a lawyer for those two parents, said Wednesday that prosecutors talked to his clients about a deal, but they refused. “We are taking a position that our client is innocent,” he said. He declined to say what the government offered but said it would likely not have involved jail time.
“They are definitely incentivizing parents to plead now and get a better deal than if they are indicted,” Mr. Hooper said. He said he was told ahead of time that the money-laundering conspiracy charge would be added in the indictment.
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He said he believes the government also wants parents to provide more information about the alleged college-admissions scam. “They are trying to expand this,” he said.
Fifty people were charged earlier this month for their alleged roles in a sprawling scheme by which Newport Beach, Calif., college-admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer said he helped wealthy parents get their kids into selective schools either by fraudulently boosting their test scores or by bribing coaches to designate them as recruited athletes. Mr. Singer pleaded guilty to four charges.
Thirteen of the parents are expected to appear in federal court here Friday, with others on the calendar next week. All are facing a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud.
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Prosecutors indicated from the day they revealed the scheme that more charges could be coming, saying Mr. Singer had worked with some parents to disguise payments for the admissions scheme as tax-deductible charitable donations. That allegation is at the root of the new money-laundering conspiracy charges.
Mr. Hooper’s clients—Amy and Gregory Colburn, of Palo Alto, Calif.—are accused of participating in the test-taking scheme for their son. They were indicted Tuesday on the charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services fraud, as well as money-laundering conspiracy.
Prosecutors allege the Colburns paid Mr. Singer $25,000 to have him arrange for someone to correct answers on their son’s SAT exam in March 2018 and that they paid that money through a sham charity set up by Mr. Singer to launder money and make it appear that parents’ payments were charitable contributions.
It was one of the smaller dollar amounts allegedly paid in the scheme. Prosecutors say some families gave Mr. Singer upward of $400,000.
Mr. Hooper said the Colburns hired Mr. Singer for legitimate college-counseling services, that their son took the SAT on his own and that they believed Mr. Singer’s nonprofit was legitimate.
Mr. Singer paid test-taking whiz Mark Riddell from the account of his charity, Key Worldwide Foundation, to correct the SAT for the Colburn’s son, prosecutors said. Mr. Riddell has agreed to plead guilty for his role in Mr. Singer’s illegal operation.
According to prosecutors, Mr. Colburn in late December 2017 transferred stock valued at nearly $25,000 to Key Worldwide to facilitate the test-cheating and received a letter back falsely saying that “no goods or services were exchanged.”
MORE ON THE COLLEGE-ADMISSIONS SCANDAL
• ‘It Was Like He Had the Magic Elixir’: How a Consulting Business Spawned the College Cheating Scandal (March 25)
• Alleged Tipster in College-Cheating Scandal Bribed a Coach, Source Says (March 19)
• College Admissions Scandal Relied on More Students Using SAT Accommodation (March 18)
• Colleges Rethink Athletic Special Admissions in Wake of Indictments (March 17)
• Key Ingredient in College-Admissions Scheme: A Harvard-Graduate Test Whiz (March 15)
Write to Melissa Korn at melissa.korn@wsj.com and Jennifer Levitz at jennifer.levitz@wsj.com

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