In college admissions case, another parent demands FBI records
Attorneys for William McGlashan Jr., the San Francisco Bay Area financier charged with conspiring to buy his son an illegal leg up in the college admissions process, have accused prosecutors of holding back evidence they say could help exonerate him.
The claim, made in a court filing Wednesday, is the latest in a series of legal jabs thrown by defendants in the college admissions scandal as they try to gain an upper hand against hard-charging government lawyers in the high-profile court fight.
In their filing, McGlashan’s lawyers asked a federal judge to force the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston to turn over, among other documents, detailed reports of interviews FBI agents did with William “Rick” Singer, the Newport Beach consultant at the center of the admissions scandal, and other cooperating witnesses. The reports, they claimed, likely contain evidence that would show McGlashan decided on his own to back away from an athletic recruiting scam offered by Singer — and not after learning he was under investigation, as prosecutors have alleged.
The move on behalf of McGlashan, a former top executive at TPG Capital who co-founded a socially and environmentally conscious “impact investment” fund with rock star Bono, followed similar motions from other parents charged with resorting to fraud, bribery and money laundering to get their children into elite universities. Their lawyers, like McGlashan’s, argue the government is withholding evidence that runs counter to its case.
Thirty-six parents have been charged in the scandal; all but 16 have pleaded guilty.
Prosecutors allege McGlashan engaged in two criminal schemes with Singer. McGlashan paid Singer $50,000 in December 2017 to fix his son’s ACT college entrance exam, prosecutors say, and agreed to pay another $250,000 to guarantee the teen’s admission to USC as a recruited football punter, which he was not.
They have portrayed McGlashan as an enthusiastic participant in Singer’s scheme, highlighting excerpts of a tapped phone call between the men in which Singer asked McGlashan for photos of his son so he could “Photoshop him onto a kicker.” “Pretty funny,” McGlashan responded, according to an affidavit quoting the call. “The way the world works these days is unbelievable.”
When they unveiled the case in March, prosecutors said that it was only after Singer secretly alerted McGlashan that he was under investigation in late October 2018 that McGlashan abandoned the recruitment scam, which Singer called his “side door.”
“The only thing that prevented him from going forward with the side door is because he was informed at the end of October that Mr. Singer was under investigation by the IRS and other law enforcement for such fraud,” Eric Rosen, an assistant U.S. attorney, said during a March court appearance.
But McGlashan’s lawyers, led by former Enron prosecutor John C. Hueston, said in their filing Wednesday that after several months of wrangling over what documents had to be turned over, prosecutors provided a one-line summary of Singer’s interviews with investigators that they say undermines the prosecution’s timeline and demonstrates McGlashan’s innocence.
“In an interview on or about September 27, 2018,” Rosen wrote in a letter to Hueston, which was appended to the filing, “Singer advised agents, in sum and in substance, that your client would not be using the side door, but would be ‘going through his own connections.’”
This admission, Hueston wrote in his motion, shows McGlashan had rejected Singer’s scheme a month earlier than previous accounts provided by the prosecution and not, as Rosen had said, because Singer had tipped him to the investigation. Despite the significance of that finding, Hueston said, prosecutors have refused to turn over the full FBI report or anything beyond “minimal ‘sum and substance’ summaries.”
It is not clear, however, when McGlashan actually turned down Singer’s offer to sneak his son in through his side door. In an updated indictment filed in October, prosecutors referred to a text message McGlashan sent to Singer on Sept. 29 that indicates he was still pursuing the idea. In it, he inquired, “So when will we know definitively on USC?”
Singer replied that the admissions committee responsible for reviewing athletic recruits wouldn’t consider football recruits until “later in the fall.”
In his filing, Hueston pointed to an email Singer sent to Donna Heinel, then a top administrator in USC’s athletic department and an alleged conspirator who has pleaded not guilty in the case. Singer told Heinel that McGlashan had “family ties” to influential people at USC and was “going that route” instead of his side-door deal. In his filing, Hueston added that by the time Singer emailed Heinel, McGlashan had “been engaging his VIP connections at USC,” including arranging a lunch for his son with a dean and a meeting with another administrator.
Ultimately, McGlashan’s son was included on a “VIP list” compiled by USC admissions officials that included applicants whose parents had donated large sums to the school or were seen as potential donors, McGlashan’s lawyers said. He withdrew his application before USC decided whether to admit him and his father “never paid a single dollar in connection with Singer’s ‘side door’ scheme,” his lawyers wrote.
In his motion, Hueston also asked the judge to order the government to hand over documents related to the testing scheme. Several parents pleaded guilty to paying Singer to rig their children’s tests after they were caught on recorded phone calls discussing the deal with Singer, but prosecutors have not indicated they have such a recording of McGlashan. Hueston offered a benign explanation for why McGlashan arranged for his son to take his ACT at a private school in West Hollywood, rather than his own school in the Bay Area: It allowed him to take the test before finals and not during his holiday break, Hueston wrote.
After receiving an invoice from Singer’s accountant, McGlashan made a $50,000 payment from his personal charitable fund to Singer’s foundation, prosecutors say. McGlashan believed it was a legitimate donation, according to Hueston’s filing.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment.
Singer, who has pleaded guilty to four felonies and cooperated extensively, has admitted his Key Worldwide Foundation had little purpose beyond passing money from his clients to coaches and test administrators they wanted to bribe.
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