A group of about 50 people, including parents, exam administrators, coaches, and more have been charged in a wild $25 million college admission scandal that allegedly involved bribery, falsifying documents, and some funny Photoshop expertise, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling announced during a press conference, NBC affiliate WKYC reports.
Here's what happened, according to the New York Times: A man named William Rick Singer founded a college prep business called the Edge College & Career Network, or The Key, basically meant to do what your average college prep business does — at least on paper. But Singer allegedly used his business as a front to help students cheat on their SATs and ACTs by reportedly bribing test proctors and/or gain college admittance through sports teams by bribing Division 1 coaches.
According to Lelling, Singer has agreed to plead guilty to the charges and is cooperating with federal prosecutors on the case.
As one would expect with any effective business model, the payment level varied depending on the type of bribery desired. For example, according to reports, the actress Felicity Huffman asked Singer's company to alter her daughter's SAT scores; for $15,000, she allegedly secured her daughter a spot in a controlled test room, where the proctor corrected her daughter's bubble sheet after the exam. Her score increased by a total of 400 points between the first time she took the test (uncorrected) and the second (corrected), according to The Hollywood Reporter.
That's a lot of money and definitely cheating — but it's certainly a lot cheaper than the $500,000 Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli (of Target's Mossimo Supply Co. fame), reportedly paid to have their two daughters recruited to the USC crew team and thus guaranteeing their admission into the school. Neither of their daughters actually participated in the sport.
A deeper dive into the scandal at large revealed the truly bonkers methods used for falsifying sports recruiting, which involved pulling sports rankings out of thin air, completely making up level of involvement in a sport (or sometimes involvement at all), and Photoshopping an image of the student's face onto the body of a person playing the sport. (It's not clear if all of these methods were used with regards to Laughlin and Giannulli's daughters.)
The span of the investigation is massive, utilizing 200 FBI agents across the country to charge the 50 people in six states — making it the largest college admissions prosecution the Justice Department has ever seen, Lelling pointed out.
Schools affected by the scheme include Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, Wake Forest, USC, and more, however at this time, "the schools are not considered co-conspirators," Lelling said. Lelling also deemed the parents the "prime movers of this fraud" and noted that "it remains to be seen if we charge any students" — which really just sounds like all of this is just the beginning.