Several real estate developers and executives are among the nearly 50 people who were charged in federal court today in connection with an alleged, massive scheme to facilitate cheating on elite college exams, bribe admissions officials and college varsity coaches — all in order to gain admissions for their children into elite colleges and universities.
Hollywood actors Lori Loughlin (of Full House fame) and Felicity Huffman (of Desperate Housewives) joined 48 others including real estate developers, private equity executives, and doctors in the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts and a court filing of the charges.
“There will not be a separate admissions system for the wealthy,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said at a press conference announcing the charges. “And there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.”
The ringleader-of-sorts was reportedly William Singer, a 58-year-old Newport Beach, California, man charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Singer was named as the owner and operator of Edge College & Career Network LLC, a for-profit college counseling and preparation business that allegedly ran the illegal college admissions cheating scheme. Singer also served as the CEO of the Key Worldwide Foundation, a non-profit he established as a charity.
According to the charges, Singer allegedly conspired with the parents charged, as well as athletic coaches, an athletics administrator and others to use bribery and other forms of fraud to gain students admission to colleges.
Bruce Isackson, president of the California-based WP Investments, a real estate investment firm, is among those charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Isackson has been accused of working with Singer to gain his two daughters admission to the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, as athlete recruits using falsified athlete profiles and fake test scores.
Isackson, is accused of transferring around $500,000 worth of stock – including $250,000 in Facebook stock – to Singer’s charity, as well as making a number of other payments for various services related to the scheme. An FBI wiretap intercepted their communications when Isackson attempted to use the service to get his third daughter into college.
Robert Zangrillo, the founder, chairman and CEO of Miami-based venture capital and real estate investment firm Dragon Global was also charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Zangrillo is accused of making payments to the firm to satisfy athletic records for his daughter, as well as have an employee of the firm take some of her classes.
Zangrillo, according to the complaint, made two $200,000 payments to Singer’s charity and made a $50,000 payment to, “USC Women’s Athletics.” Donna Heinel, the senior associate athletic director at the University of Southern California, was charged with racketeering conspiracy as part of the investigation.
Zangrillo’s Dragon Global is one of the firms behind Miami’s Magic City Innovation District, a community revitalization project.
Robert Flaxman, the CEO and co-founder of Crown Realty and Development, a firm that offers real estate development, redevelopment, and professional management services, was also charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Flaxman, according to the complaint, made multiple payments to Singer’s charity – including two $250,000 payments from his company – to help his two children get into college. Singer allegedly helped Flaxman’s son lie about achievements on his college entrance exam and helped Flaxman’s daughter cheat on her ACT test.
John Wilson, the founder and CEO private equity and real estate development firm Hyannis Port Capital, was also charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Wilson allegedly conspired to bribe the USC water polo coach to get his son as a recruit on the water polo team and sought to use bribes to obtain admission of his two daughters to Stanford University and Harvard University as recruited athletes.
Inman has reached out Isackson, Zangrillo and Flaxman using public contact details, requesting comment, and we will update if and when they respond.
Update: Updated to include information about John Wilson, a real estate developer charged as part of the alleged scheme.