Newsletter: Today: The Selling of a ‘Side Door’ to Schools

William Singer
William “Rick” Singer, founder of the Edge College & Career Network, leaves federal court in Boston this week after pleading guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal.
(Steven Senne / Associated Press)

A look at the self-styled “master coach” of college admissions, a brazen scheme and a university caught in yet another scandal.

TOP STORIES

The Selling of a ‘Side Door’ to Schools

William “Rick” Singer of Newport Beach made his name — and, prosecutors say, a fraudulent fortune — by peddling a bleak view of the college admissions process and selling wealthy families access to a “side door.” Singer has admitted charging $15,000 to $75,000 to rig tests for children in a con he called the “home run of home runs.” And while the largest college admissions scandal in U.S. history stretches from La Jolla to Cape Cod, its epicenter is Southern California — and USC. Of the 32 parents named in the FBI affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston, more than half stand accused of conspiring to bribe their way into the University of Southern California.

More on the Scandal

-- What we know about Mark Riddell, a test-taking whiz linked to a college cheating scam.

-- Why wasn’t William H. Macy charged when his wife, Felicity Huffman, was?

-- Columnist Bill Plaschke: USC athletic director Lynn Swann should be fired.

Consider Them Grounded

The Federal Aviation Administration has defined what’s airworthy for decades, but this week, the U.S. followed the lead of China, Canada and other major countries in grounding Boeing 737 Max planes after a fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash that bore similarities to an October accident off Indonesia. President Trump made the initial announcement, and the FAA said the decision came “as a result of the data-gathering process and new evidence collected at the site.” Trump had spoken on the phone Tuesday with Boeing’s chief executive following the president’s tweet that airplanes were “becoming far too complex to fly.” While airlines are working to rebook passengers, there are reports that some carriers are reconsidering their pending orders for 737 Max aircraft.

More From Washington

-- Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was excoriated by a federal judge, sentenced to another 3½ years in prison in the Russia investigation and then swiftly indicted on mortgage fraud charges in New York.

-- The Senate voted to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabian-led coalition’s war in Yemen, bringing Congress one step closer to a unprecedented rebuke of Trump’s foreign policy.

-- Trump’s pick for a California seat on the 9th Circuit has apologized for failing to disclose to the Senate dozens of articles he wrote in college, saying he regretted his youthful positions on sexual harassment, gay people and AIDS.

-- Amid talk that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen again lied to Congress, Cohen’s lawyer sent a letter to the head of the House Oversight Committee clarifying Cohen’s testimony that he never sought a pardon from the president.

‘Deeply Moral’ or ‘Abuse of Power’?

Gov. Gavin Newsom says he has the legal authority and moral responsibility to stop executions in California: “The law is the law and this is crystal clear: The constitution of the state of California provides the governor the ability to reprieve, the ability do this moratorium.” But supporters of capital punishment are outraged over his decision, calling it a subversion of the will of voters, who refused to abolish the death penalty just two years ago. Legal experts say that while Newsom does have authority to grant reprieves to the 737 inmates on death row (see who they are here), he could be challenged for discarding the state’s death penalty protocol and shuttering the execution chamber.

A Ghost at Sea

What to do with an old oil platform along the Santa Barbara coast? Nearly two years ago, a decades-old rig known as Holly became property of the state after its owner filed for bankruptcy. All drilling has ceased, and the wells are soon to be sealed. The next move, however, is unclear. As the latest Column One feature explores, Holly could be removed entirely, reconfigured for alternative energy production, or converted into either a marine biology lab or an artificial reef.

The Champions of Breakfast

Are you cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs or always after those Lucky Charms? Then you may love or completely hate the L.A. Times Breakfast Cereal Power Rankings from food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson. This is only the first round, dealing with cereals on the sweet side of the spectrum. So what is “the Sean Penn of cereals” or “like dense Duraflame logs”? Read on.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

The Dodgers are in spring training in Arizona ahead of their regular season opening day on March 28. But before the team warmed up in the Grand Canyon State, they trained in Vero Beach, Fla., from 1949 to 2008 in a facility that became known as “Dodgertown.” Here’s a look back at the site and all those stretching exercises.

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March 1, 1987: Dodgers pitcher Jerry Reuss and teammates stretch during training in Vero Beach, Fla.
(Joe Kennedy / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

-- Investigators have determined that Southern California Edison power lines ignited the 2017 Thomas fire, a massive blaze in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties that killed two people and later gave rise to a mudflow that resulted in at least 21 deaths.

-- Civil rights groups want police and sheriff’s departments to stop sending license plate scanner information to a national private database, saying new public documents show federal immigration agents are using the system in breach of “sanctuary” state and city laws.

-- Meanwhile, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals appeared skeptical of efforts by the Trump administration to throw out the state’s sanctuary laws.

-- In the race for the 3rd District seat on the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Irvine Mayor Don Wagner has widened his lead over former congresswoman Loretta Sanchez.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

-- The Writers Guild of America has taken the unprecedented step of asking its thousands of members to fire their agents if they don’t agree to a new code of conduct that would transform the way business is done.

-- The new Netflix show “Turn Up Charlie” stars Idris Elba as you’ve never seen him before.

-- Fashion designer Christian Siriano is shaking things up on the red carpet and “Project Runway.”

-- In Hamburg and in Berlin, two operas revolving around Babylon address the modern-day issues of Trump and an immigration crisis.

NATION-WORLD

-- A late winter storm brought blizzards, high winds and flooding to more than 25 states, stretching from the northern Rocky Mountains to Texas and beyond.

-- Mexico has begun a search for a group of migrants who were pulled off a bus by gunmen near the U.S. border. It’s at least the second such incident in two months.

-- Britain is trying to figure out what’s next with Brexit after lawmakers voted against leaving the European Union without any deal at all in hopes of avoiding almost certain economic chaos.

-- Who ordered the assassination of Rio de Janeiro city councilor Marielle Franco and her driver? A year after the deaths, Brazil still grieves.

BUSINESS

-- Facing mounting pressure from boycotts, Fox News has taken the unusual step of assuring advertisers that they should not pull their commercials out of its conservative opinion programs.

-- Johnson & Johnson must pay $29 million to a dying California woman who blamed asbestos-tainted talc for causing her cancer. It’s the company’s latest loss over its baby powder.

SPORTS

-- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are leading a cast of 30-somethings advancing in the BNP Paribas Open.

-- Lakers guard Lonzo Ball is frustrated but understands why his season is over.

OPINION

-- The college admissions scandal: How money and privilege make parents stupid and dishonest.

-- On Friday, students will be striking for action on climate change. It’s a truancy everyone should applaud.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

-- “Man, I’m just born to be in it”: Beto O’Rourke as he comes to grips with a presidential run. (Vanity Fair)

-- “The cult of Souplantation”: For many seniors, immigrants and hipsters, the buffet is an institution, despite the awful name. (Los Angeles Magazine)

-- What’s the plural of emoji? Let the investigation begin. (The Atlantic)

ONLY IN L.A.

In the courtyard of a two-story residential complex in downtown Alhambra, by appointment only, you will find Imen Shan’s tiny shop called Tea Habitat. Her business is now mostly wholesale, and her teas aren’t cheap. But as restaurant critic Bill Addison writes, “She is one of the most knowledgeable experts on tea in America, and I wanted to learn from her.” This is what he found.

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