Judge questions — but accepts — plea deal for ex-Yale coach in college admissions scheme
Rudy Meredith, the former Yale women’s soccer coach, admitted in federal court in Boston Thursday to pocketing bribes from parents and pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and conspiracy.
Judge Mark L. Wolf accepted the guilty plea from Meredith, who has been cooperating with authorities in Massachusetts for nearly a year, though the judge expressed concerns that prosecutors hadn’t addressed the full extent of his misdeeds.
“Even though there were potential charges that weren’t pursued, this [plea agreement] adequately reflects the seriousness” of Meredith’s admitted crimes, Wolf said.
Meredith became the third person to plead guilty in a wide-ranging scheme to slip the children of wealthy and powerful families into the some of the country’s preeminent schools by rigging college entrance exams, bribing test proctors, fabricating athletic credentials and paying off college coaches and administrators. Federal prosecutors in Massachusetts implicated 50 people in the fraud, including Hollywood actresses, a fashion designer, and titans of business and finance.
The scheme’s admitted mastermind, Newport Beach college consultant William “Rick” Singer, has already pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice. John Vandemoer, the former sailing coach at Stanford University, pleaded guilty earlier this month to a charge of racketeering conspiracy.
Meredith, 51, will be sentenced June 20. Prosecutors can recommend he receive a sentence below federal guidelines in exchange for his cooperation. He agreed to forfeit $866,000 in bribes he had accepted, $308,000 of which he already gave the FBI in a cashier’s check last May.
Prosecutors allege that between 2015 and 2018, Singer paid Meredith $860,000 to designate the children of his clients as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic ability. Meredith was caught in an FBI sting after a father, whose daughter Meredith agreed to recruit in exchange for a bribe, learned he was being investigated for securities fraud and agreed to cooperate with the government, according to court records.
The father, described only as a Los Angeles resident, met Meredith in a Boston hotel room in April 2018 and handed the coach $2,000 in cash toward a bribe payment totaling $450,000, prosecutors said. The rendezvous was secretly videotaped by the FBI, said prosecutor Eric Rosen.
Rosen said the father had been paying Meredith in monthly installments since coming to the agreement in the summer of 2017.
In a memo filed on Wednesday, Wolf questioned whether prosecutors had “at least implicitly agreed not to pursue additional potential charges against Meredith,” noting that while Singer and a half-dozen other university coaches are charged with racketeering conspiracy, Meredith is not.
Rosen said Thursday that when Meredith was approached by the FBI after the hotel room sting, Singer’s sprawling conspiracy and his network of allegedly suborned coaches “wasn’t on our radar.”
“We learned about it through Mr. Meredith,” he said. It was during that hotel room rendezvous that investigators, watching on a video feed, first heard the name Rick Singer, Rosen said.
Prosecutors hinted Thursday that more charges could be forthcoming. Wolf asked whether there was a superseding indictment concerning another father, unnamed in court filings, who allegedly paid $1.2 million for Meredith to facilitate his daughter’s admittance to Yale as a recruited soccer player. The student is referred to in court papers as “Yale Applicant 1.”
Rosen whispered with prosecutor Justin O’Connell before telling the judge: “There haven’t been charges publicly revealed about the family of Yale Applicant 1.”
The applicant was admitted to Yale as a recruited soccer player despite never having played the sport competitively, prosecutors say.
Meredith had coached women’s soccer at Yale for 24 years when he stepped down last November, saying in a press release it was “time to explore new possibilities and begin a different chapter in my life.”
The following day, Yale received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. attorney in Massachusetts seeking information about Meredith, the school said. There is “strong reason to believe” Meredith supplied endorsements and fake athletic credentials to two applicants, a Yale spokesman said.
One was admitted, and Yale said on Monday it had rescinded that student’s admission — the first known case of a university involved in the college admissions scandal cutting ties with a student believed to have been admitted fraudulently.
Fifteen parents charged in Singer’s scheme will make appearances on Friday in federal court in Boston. A dozen more — including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman — will be in the same court next Wednesday.
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