The college admissions scam involving Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman shows how some rich families use a “side door” to game an already unfair education system.
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Inside a Boston hotel room April 12, 2018, Yale Women’s Soccer Coach Rudy Meredith allegedly met with a father from California who was ready to pay to get his daughter into the Ivy League school.
A deal was reached, federal prosecutors said.
Meredith, 51, allegedly agreed to designate the young woman, identified in court documents as “Applicant 2,” as a Yale soccer player in exchange for $450,000. Prosecutors said he accepted an initial payment of $2,000 in cash at the hotel and later received $4,000 through a wire transfer into a Connecticut bank account.
What Meredith, who resigned as the team’s coach in November after 24 years, did not know was that the FBI was secretly recording the meeting.
The father was a tipster to the Justice Department wearing a wire, according to media reports.
According to the Justice Department, the April 18 wire payment was from a Boston bank account under the control of FBI agents as well.
The FBI had its eyes on Meredith after federal authorities were tipped to him while pursuing a separate securities fraud case, according to The Wall Street Journal and The Boston Globe, which shed light on how the scheme unraveled.
The scam was discovered by accident. A financial executive wanting leniency in the securities case told federal authorities that Meredith sought a bribe to get his daughter into Yale, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing “people familiar with the investigation.”
After the Boston sting operation, Meredith cooperated with federal authorities, the report said, making him the first – and key – domino in the largest college admissions scandal in U.S. history.
Meredith is one of 50 people, including 33 affluent parents and nine collegiate athletic coaches, charged with crimes in the elaborate cheating and bribery conspiracy. The parent who met with Meredith in the Boston hotel room is not among those charged. Meredith was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services wire fraud and a second count of honest services wire fraud.
The FBI office in Boston did not immediately return a message from USA TODAY on how the FBI learned of the wider college admissions scheme. At a news conference Tuesday, officials said only that FBI investigators found evidence of a “large-scale elaborate fraud” while working an unrelated undercover case.
The multi-state federal investigation, launched less than a year ago, is still underway. More coaches and parents could be charged.
Prosecutors said rich and powerful parents paid “enormous sums” to coaches at elite colleges and universities in exchange for them pretending their children were competitive athletes as a way to admit them into the schools. Parents allegedly made more than $25 million in payments since 2011 to William “Rick” Singer of Newport Beach, California, who is accused of being the scheme’s ringleader. He allegedly operated a sham nonprofit group and worked with coaches to facilitate the financial transactions and the applicants’ entry into the schools.
The Justice Department said Meredith started working with Singer in 2015.
Months before the Boston meeting, federal prosecutors said, Singer sent Meredith a check of $400,000 around Jan. 1, 2018, for the coach’s role in getting a different woman admitted to Yale.
Prosecutors said Meredith designated the student, identified in court documents as “Applicant 1,” as a recruit for the soccer team even though he knew she didn’t play competitive soccer.
In November 2017, Singer was introduced to the applicant’s family through a Los Angeles-based financial adviser, prosecutors said. The applicant’s father allegedly told Singer in an email that he wanted to make a “donation” for his daughter’s “application.”
Prosecutors said Singer sent the daughter’s resume and personal statement, which contained links to the applicant’s art portfolio, to Meredith. Singer allegedly told Meredith he would change the materials from art to soccer.
On Nov. 13, prosecutors said, Singer sent Meredith an “athletic profile” that fabricated the applicant’s soccer credentials, including falsely describing her as a co-captain of a prominent soccer club in Southern California. Meredith allegedly used that profile to classify her as a women’s soccer player.
In all, according to prosecutors, relatives of Applicant 1 paid Singer $1.2 million, including $900,000 into a charitable account Singer set up through his college counseling organization called The Key.
As Yale’s women’s soccer team coach, Meredith won Northeast Region Coach of the Year honors three times and led the team to the NCAA College Cup in 2002, 2004 and 2005.
He did not refer to the federal investigation publicly when he resigned in November, calling it “time to explore new possibilities and begin a different chapter in my life.”
“I will always bleed Yale blue and wish everyone in the athletics department future success,” he said.
In addition to the charges, federal prosecutors seek to recover more than $557,000 from Meredith in forfeiture and a $308,000 cashier’s check provided to the FBI on May, 21, 2018.
Meredith’s initial appearance in federal court is set for March 28 in Boston.
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