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 on April 12, 2018, Yale Women’s Soccer Coach Rudy Meredith 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 say.
Meredith, 51, agreed to designate the young woman, identified in court documents as “Applicant 2,” as a Yale soccer player in exchange for $450,000. 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.
But what Meredith, who resigned as the team’s coach in November after 24 years, did not know then was that the FBI was secretly recording the meeting.
The father was a tipster to the Justice Department wearing a wire, media reports found.
And unbeknownst to Meredith, 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 their eyes on Meredith after federal authorities were tipped to him while pursuing a separate securities fraud case, according to new reports from the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe that sheds light on how the scheme unraveled.
The scam was discovered, as many others are, by accident. A financial executive wanting leniency in the securities case told federal authorities that Meredith had sought a bribe to get his daughter into Yale, the Wall Street Journal story says, citing “people familiar with the investigation” as sources.
After the Boston sting operation, Meredith later cooperated with federal authorities, the report says, making him the first – and key – domino in what is said to be the largest-ever 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 has been 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 only said 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 later.
Prosecutors say 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 made more than $25 million in payments since 2011 to William “Rick” Singer, of Newport Beach, California, the scheme’s ringleader who operated a sham nonprofit and worked with coaches to facilitate the financial transactions and the applicants’ entry into the schools.
The Justice Department’s complaint against Meredith contends that he started working with Singer in 2015.
Months before the Boston meeting, federal prosecutors say Singer around Jan. 1, 2018, sent Meredith a check of $400,000 for the coach’s role in getting a different woman admitted to Yale.
Prosecutors say Meredith designated the student, identified in court documents as “Applicant 1,” as a recruit for the soccer team even though he knew that she didn’t play competitive soccer.
The interaction with that applicant’s family began in November 2017, prosecutors say, when Singer was introduced to the loved ones of the applicant through a Los Angeles-based financial adviser. The applicant’s father later emailed Singer saying he wanted to make a “donation” for his daughter’s “application.”
Singer then sent the daughter’s resume and personal statement, which prosecutors say contained links to the applicant’s art portfolio, to Meredith. Singer told Meredith he would change the materials from art to soccer.
On Nov. 13, prosecutors say that 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. That profile was used by Meredith 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 that 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 reference 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 at the time.
In addition to the charges, federal prosecutors are also seeking 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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