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Real estate developer sentenced to one month in prison for college admissions scandal role

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Robert Flaxman, arriving at federal court in Boston in March, was ordered Friday to serve one month in prison for rigging his daughter’s college admissions exam.
(Associated Press)

Robert Flaxman, a Beverly Hills real estate developer who admitted to participating in the college admissions scandal but insisted his motive was less noxious than those of other parents in the case, was sentenced Friday to one month in prison.

The sentencing came after Flaxman, 63, pleaded guilty in May to conspiring with William “Rick” Singer, a college consultant who ran the admissions scam, and other accomplices to rig his daughter’s entrance exam. Flaxman paid Singer $75,000 for the illicit service.

Flaxman is the 10th parent to be sentenced among a group of 15 mothers and fathers who have pleaded guilty to paying Singer for doctored test scores or to outright buy seats at a handful of selective universities around the country from athletic coaches on Singer’s payroll. All but one of them have been punished with time behind bars, although the relatively short sentences that range from two weeks to five months have been shorter than those sought by the government.

Singer has pleaded guilty as well, while many of the more than 50 people charged in the case, which prosecutors say is the largest ever of its kind, have maintained their innocence so far.

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In handing down Flaxman’s punishment, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani rejected a last-ditch bid he made to be spared prison altogether. In a court filing in which he asked Talwani to sentence his client to probation, Flaxman’s lawyer urged the judge to view him in a light different from other parents who committed the same crime.

Despite being enormously wealthy from real estate developments in Arizona and elsewhere and knowing that what he was doing with Singer was wrong, Flaxman’s attorney, William Weinreb, said his client does not fit the portrayal put forth by prosecutors of rich, entitled parents who resorted to fraud in order to give their already privileged children an extra leg up in the cutthroat scramble for spots at elite schools.

Federal prosecutors are ratcheting up pressure on parents who have maintained their innocence in the college admissions scandal with a warning they intend to file additional criminal charges as early as next week.

Flaxman, instead, was driven by a misguided desire to help his troubled daughter get into a lower-tier school after years of undisclosed problems left her with “a checkered disciplinary record and modest grades,” Weinreb wrote.

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Flaxman, his lawyer wrote, saw a traditional four-year college as an important step toward getting his daughter’s life back on track and was desperate to boost her credentials enough to make her eligible for the University of San Francisco, a school that accepts the majority of applicants.

With Singer telling him his daughter would not get in anywhere if she did not post a reasonably good score on the ACT, an entrance exam, Flaxman took Singer up on his offer to rig the test, Weinreb said.

“He should have found another alternative that did not require breaking the law. That goes without saying. But all criminals make bad choices; the reason Robert chose badly in this case should matter in deciding on a just sentence,” the lawyer wrote.

Prosecutors saw things differently, making the same general argument they have against other parents: that incarceration is necessary to adequately punish wealthy parents who knowingly paid into a scam that upended the college admissions process.

Along with his time in prison, Flaxman must pay a $50,000 fine and serve 250 hours of community service.


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