Federal prosecutors have accused multiple coaches and administrators of participating in a wide-ranging fraud scheme in which they accepted bribes to facilitate students' admission into elite universities.
The U.S. Attorney's office in Boston announced a series of indictments Tuesday, with prosecutors detailing evidence of athletic officials allegedly collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars to help students get into schools like USC, Stanford, UCLA, Georgetown and Wake Forest.
Parents spent anywhere from $200k to $6.5 million to guarantee admissions to elite schools for their children #AdmissionsScam— U.S. Attorney MA (@DMAnews1) March 12, 2019
According to court documents unsealed Tuesday, the scheme centered around a California-based non-profit called the Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF) founded by William Singer. Officials said parents paid Singer "approximately $25 million" from 2011-February 2019 "to bribe coaches and university administrators to designate their children as recruited athletes, or other favored admissions categories, in violation of the duty of honest services the coaches and administrators owed to their employers, thereby facilitating the children's admission to the universities."
Among the 33 parents indicted in what the FBI called "Operation Varsity Blues" were actresses Felcity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and several corporate CEOs.
While officials from multiple schools were involved in the alleged scheme, USC is at the center of the probe. Prosecutors said Singer's clients made payments of more than $1.3 million to accounts controlled by Donna Heinel, USC's senior associate athletic director, to assist with the admission of "more than two dozen" students, with parents paying $50,000 to $100,000 per student.
Three USC coaches also were implicated: former women's soccer head coach Ali Khosroshahin and his assistant Laura Janke, along with current water polo head coach Jovan Vavic.
The indictment said Khosroshahin also was involved in helping one of Singer's clients obtain admission to UCLA by purporting to be a women's soccer recruit. Khosroshahin, who was no longer working for USC at the time, allegedly was paid $25,000 by Singer to funnel information on the applicant to UCLA head men's soccer coach Jorge Salcedo, who sent the information on to the coach of the UCLA women's team. Singer also sent $100,000 to a sports marketing company run by Salcedo, according to the indictment. In return, the parents of the student made a $250,000 "donation" to Singer's KWF.
Former Yale women's soccer coach Rudy Meredith, Wake Forest women's volleyball coach Bill Ferguson, Texas men's tennis coach Michael Center, former Georgetown tennis coach Gordie Ernst (now the head coach at Rhode Island), and Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer participated in similar schemes, according to the indictment.
The fallout for those named in the indictments was swift. Stanford announced Tuesday that Vandemoer has been terminated, while Ferguson and Center have been placed on leave by Wake Forest and Texas.
In addition to the individuals involved facing federal prosecution, the schools that employ them could be in line for serious NCAA sanctions as well.