More wealthy parents could be swept up in widening college admissions scandal

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The college cheating scandal has rocked elite sections of California and beyond, with Silicon Valley business leaders, CEOs, Hollywood actresses, a best-selling self-help author and a famed fashion designer all swept up.

But there are signs more charges could be coming.

Federal authorities have said the investigation is ongoing, but have not provided details. They did, however, say the colleges involved are not criminal targets.

Here is what we know.


One sign of where the investigation is going comes from several elite Southern California prep schools, which have received subpoenas from prosecutors seeking information about some of the students involved in the fraud case. Although the prep schools are not targets of the investigation, prosecutors want to know whether the parents and others accused in the case sought or received help from the schools, sources told The Times.


One source with knowledge of the situation said some of the records federal authorities are demanding are for names not included in the charges filed this week in Boston federal court.

FULL COVERAGE: Dozens charged in connection with college admissions scheme »

Far-reaching scheme

It remains unclear how many parents took part in the college admissions scam.

The scheme, which began in 2011, centered on a Newport Beach college placement firm run by Rick Singer. Wealthy parents paid Singer to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and to falsify athletic records of students to enable them to secure admission to elite schools, including UCLA, USC, Stanford, Yale and Georgetown, according to court records.

Prosecutors allege that Singer instructed parents to donate funds to a fake charity he had established as part of the scheme. Most of the parents paid at least $200,000, but some spent up to $6.5 million to guarantee their children admission to top universities, authorities said. The parents were then able to deduct the donation from their income taxes, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The scheme itself was fairly simple, prosecutors said: Singer instructed parents to seek extended time for their children on ACT and SAT exams. In at least one instance, a student claimed to have a learning disability to obtain medical documentation required by the College Board and ACT Inc. to grant additional time on the tests, according to court documents.

How many?

Court documents said that Singer had more than 700 clients.

But it is believed that a much smaller group of very wealthy parents took part in the scheme. Some parents interviewed by The Times said they used Singer’s firm for typical college placement services and had nothing to do with bribes.

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More investigations

In addition to federal prosecutors, several universities and at least one L.A. prep school have opened their own investigations into what happened.

USC interim President Wanda Austin, for example, told the campus in a letter Thursday that the university had opened its own probe, which would include looking for suspect donations and determining what to do about students and applicants involved in the scam.

Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City said it has also launched an internal review.