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Some wealthy parents cut deals, others fight on in college admissions scandal. A look at what’s next

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Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin outside Boston court this week.
(Associated Press)

In a busy week in the college admissions scandal, some accused parents have decided to cooperate with prosecutors.

One couple that balked, however, has been indicted with an added charge of money laundering, indicating the government is ready to wield more charges as leverage.

The question is how many will continue to fight — and whether those who cooperate are providing information that authorities could use to build more cases.

Some legal experts have said it makes sense to cut deals, given the evidence prosecutors have amassed. They have laid out hundreds of pages of wiretapped phone conversations, emails, and bank and tax records in depicting a scheme that rigged college entrance exams and corrupted the athletic recruiting processes of at least eight universities.

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Still, other parents are fighting on, questioning the strength of the cases and assailing the credibility of the prosecution’s star witnesses and the scheme’s mastermind, William “Rick” Singer.

Here is a rundown:

‘Remorse and shame’

Attorney Gordon Caplan, who until last month led the private equity practice at the New York firm of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, said Friday he would plead guilty. He is among 33 parents charged by federal prosecutors in an alleged scheme to sneak the children of wealthy families into top universities with bribes, fake credentials and rigged college entrance exams.

Caplan, a resident of Greenwich, Conn., was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

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It was unclear which charges Caplan would plead guilty to, and his attorneys did not respond on Friday to a request for comment.

Caplan said Friday his daughter was devastated to learn what he had done: paid to have her ACT score rigged. A junior in high school, she “had no knowledge whatsoever about my actions,” he said, and has not applied to any universities.

Caplan apologized to his family, his friends and his former colleagues at Willkie Farr. He also apologized to “students everywhere who have been accepted to college through their own hard work.”

“The remorse and shame that I feel is more than I can convey,” he said.

Others making deals

Attorneys for another parent, Peter Jan Sartorio, said in a court filing Wednesday that the frozen-food entrepreneur would plead guilty to charges listed in a new document that prosecutors would file by the end of the month.

Two other parents — Devin Sloane, an executive with a Los Angeles water systems company, and Jane Buckingham, a marketing expert — have indicated in court filings that they are nearing similar deals with prosecutors.

Buckingham, who once authored a book titled “The Modern Girl’s Guide to Sticky Situations,” wanted her son to attend USC — so desperately, prosecutors allege, that she turned to Singer, a college admissions consultant, to inflate her son’s ACT score.

Buckingham paid Singer $50,000 for his alleged accomplice and ace test-taker, a 36-year-old Harvard graduate named Mark Riddell, to take the test for her son, prosecutors say. Riddell has agreed to plead guilty to two conspiracy counts.

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Riddell scored a 35 for the son — in the 99th percentile, according to court documents. Buckingham allegedly discussed having Riddell take the ACT for her daughter as well last October.

Fighting the charges

Bill McGlashan, the former managing partner of San Francisco-based TPG Growth, is fighting allegations he discussed a $200,000 bribe with an athletic administrator to get his son into USC.

His attorneys argued that their client differed from other parents caught up in the scandal. McGlashan, who has pleaded not guilty, says he paid Singer $50,000 for legitimate college counseling services for his son.

The two highest-profile defendants, actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, have so far not made deals. Both appeared in federal court in Boston this week.

Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer J. Mossimo Giannulli, are charged with paying Singer $400,000 to have their two daughters admitted to USC in an athletic recruiting scam. The couple appeared relaxed in their court appearance Wednesday. At one point, Loughlin rose from her seat and walked over to the prosecutors who had charged her with a felony. Smiling, she greeted them and shook their hands. Loughlin signed autographs for fans outside of court.

Huffman was more subdued.

She is accused of paying $15,000 for Riddell, Singer’s alleged accomplice, to correct her daughter’s answers on the SAT. Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, has not been charged in the case, despite court records that show he was allegedly involved in the plan.

Grand jury indictment

Amy and Gregory Colburn, a Palo Alto couple, were indicted by a grand jury after plea talks between their attorneys and prosecutors fell apart. The grand jury saddled the couple with an additional charge of money laundering.

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An attorney for the Colburns said prosecutors had been unwilling to show the couple’s legal team all the evidence they’d amassed and insisted that any deal would require them to plead guilty to a felony. The Colburns balked and were promptly indicted.

Both pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in Boston.

Full coverage: Dozens charged — including Hollywood actresses — in connection with college admissions scheme »


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