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Prosecutors urge parents in college admissions scandal to cooperate, make a deal

Prosecutors urge parents in college admissions scandal to cooperate, make a deal
Clockwise from top left: J. Mossimo Giannulli and Lori Loughlin; William "Rick" Singer; Felicity Huffman; Yale women's soccer coach Rudy Meredith; former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer; USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic. (EPA/Shutterstock / AP / Getty Images / Los Angeles Times)

Federal prosecutors are seeking potential deals with some of the wealthy parents charged in the sweeping college admissions scandal as investigators continue to broaden the case, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.

One source said some of the parents are being given a short window to consider a deal or potentially face additional charges.

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It’s unclear which parents prosecutors hope to seek out for cooperation, but sources said authorities were interested in getting a better picture of how the scam worked.

The sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

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The push for deals offers hints as to where the case that has rocked American academia is headed.

Federal authorities have said the investigation is ongoing but have not provided details. Several elite Southern California prep schools 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 any parents or others accused in the case sought or received help from the schools, sources told The Times.

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 William “Rick” Singer. Wealthy parents are accused of paying 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, court records show.

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. 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.

Court documents said 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.

A key tip that led to what authorities describe as the largest-ever college admissions cheating scandal came from a Los Angeles parent who was under investigation in an unrelated securities case, according to a law enforcement source.

According to court papers, the scam unraveled last year when one of Singer’s coaches decided to go off on his own and work directly with a parent.

Rudy Meredith, Yale’s women’s soccer coach for more than two decades, had previously helped Singer fake the soccer credentials of a child of a Singer client. But in spring 2018, he solicited a bribe directly from the father of a second Yale applicant, whom the Department of Justice designated as “Yale Applicant 2.”

What the coach did not know was that the parent took the proposal to federal prosecutors because the parent was already charged in a stock fraud and was looking to cut a deal, according to the court papers.

The source could not confirm whether the father of “Yale Applicant 2” was the L.A. parent.

The moves come as many of the defendants are set to appear in a Boston court later this month.

Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman have hired big-name law firms to represent them in the college admissions cheating scandal.

Huffman was initially represented by Hollywood’s top criminal defense attorney, Blair Berk, but because the case is in Boston, she will be defended by Marty Murphy of Foley Hoag, while Loughlin is represented by Perry Viscounty of Latham & Watkins.

Twitter: @LAcrimes

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