Nine college coaches and one administrator are among the dozens of individuals charged in a a widespread cheating scheme aimed at getting students into universities as recruited athletes.
According to court documents, the scheme, orchestrated by William Rick Singer was centered around cheating on college entrance exams to get the children of wealthy parents like actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin into the schools of their choice. In addition to cheating on tests, Singer enlisted coaches to help the prospective students gain admittance into school by any means necessary.
Below are the coaches facing charges and what they are accused of doing. There is big money involved.
Rudy Meredith - Yale women’s soccer
Meredith served as the head coach of Yale’s women’s soccer program for 24 years before resigning last November to “explore new possibilities and begin a different chapter” in his life. Tuesday, it was revealed that Meredith has been accused of accepting bribes from Singer “in exchange for designating applicants” to Yale as recruits for the women’s soccer team, and “thereby facilitating their admission to the university,” according to court documents. Meredith, per court documents, worked with Singer between April 2015 and April 2018.
In Nov. 2017, Singer sent an email to Meredith with information about a Yale applicant. The prospective student’s father “wished to make a ‘donation’ to ‘one of those top schools’ for his daughter's ‘application.’” Singer instructed Meredith to “revise” the student’s information, which included an art portfolio,” to “soccer.” Meredith then created a “profile” for the applicant that “that falsely described her as the co-captain of a prominent club soccer team in Southern California.” She did not play competitive soccer.
In January 2018, after she was admitted to Yale, Singer mailed Meredith a check for $400,000 from an account of Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF), a non-profit Singer established as a charity in 2012. In the spring or summer of 2018, Singer was paid “approximately $1.2 million in multiple installments” from relatives of the Yale applicant.
In another example, Meredith met with the father of another Yale applicant and said he would “designate Yale Applicant 2 as a recruit for the Yale women's soccer team in exchange for payments to himself totaling $450,000.” At the meeting, which was recorded by the FBI, Meredith accepted $2,000 in cash as partial payment toward the requested figure. Later on, Meredith accepted an additional $4,000 payment from an account that was controlled by FBI agents.
Meredith, who became a cooperating witness in the case in April 2018 in the hopes of obtaining leniency at his sentencing, has agreed to plead guilty to wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
John Vandemoer - Stanford sailing
Vandemoer, who was entering his 11th season at Stanford, became involved in a scheme to get the daughter of John B. Wilson, the founder and CEO of a private equity and real estate development firm, into Stanford. Wilson had previously used Singer’s services — at the cost of $100,000 — to get his son into USC.
In a recorded call dated Oct. 27, 2018, Singer told Wilson he gave Vandemoer $160,000 “for his program” in order to “secure a spot for next year.” Singer says he asked Vandemoer about a second spot, but Vandemoer said he could not do that because “he actually has to recruit some real sailors so that Stanford doesn’t catch on.”
In another call with Wilson, court documents indicate Singer said he “paid John Vandemoer the 500,” in reference to $500,000 Wilson had previously wired into a KWF account to “secure the spot” for one of his daughters.
According to court documents, Vandemoer has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of racketeering conspiracy. In the charging document against Vandemoer, it says the $500,000 payment for the recruiting spot was made “to the Stanford sailing program.”
Stanford fired Vandemoer on Tuesday afternoon.
Gordon Ernst - Georgetown tennis
Gordon “Gordie” Ernst spent 12 years coaching tennis at Georgetown before resigning in June 2018 then accepting the head-coaching position for the women’s tennis program at Rhode Island two months later. In court documents, Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez, a couple from California, bribed Ernst — during his time at Georgetown — to facilitate their daughter’s admission to Georgetown as a tennis recruit.
The couple’s daughter already had “fraudulently obtained SAT scores” via Singer’s services. Singer also helped the daughter with an application essay to Georgetown. Her application also fraudulently said that she played “club tennis” year-round and was nationally ranked. The next month, the Henriquezes’ daughter “received a letter from Georgetown indicating that the university had ‘conducted an initial review of [her] application to the Class of 2019 at the request of Mr. Gordie Ernst, tennis coach,’ and that her admission was ‘likely.’”
Ernst was paid $950,000 by KWF between September 2015 and November 2016, according to court documents. Singer said the payments were “made in exchange for Ernst’s designation of the Henriquezes’ daughter and several other students as purported tennis recruits, in order to facilitate their admission to Georgetown.”
In another instance, Singer said Ernst was paid $244,000 between September 2012 and September 2013 to get another student into Georgetown as a tennis recruit.
In all, the payments to Ernst totaled “more than $2.7 million” between 2012 and 2018.
In court documents, it was revealed that Georgetown was “conducting an internal investigation to determine why students who were not tennis players had been admitted to Georgetown through Ernst.”
Ernst, who was placed on administrative leave by Rhode Island, has been federally charged with racketeering conspiracy.
Donna Heinel - USC Senior Associate Athletic Director
Heinel, who has been indicted on a federal charge of racketeering conspiracy, was a major point of contact for Singer at USC. In many instances, she is accused of presenting “falsified athletic credentials” of applicants to the school’s subcommittee for athletic admissions while also designating the applicants as recruits.
In the case of one applicant, Heinel “suggested” that a $200,000 payment for the admittance of the daughter of Gamal Abdelaziz be directed “to the gift account for the Galen Center the arena for USC’s basketball and volleyball programs.” Singer later told law enforcement that he and Heinel decided that “Heinel would receive payments of $20,000 per month personally in exchange for her assistance in securing the admission of Abdelaziz’s daughter, and the children of [Singer]’s other clients, to USC as purported athletic recruits” instead of “directing the money to USC.”
In one recorded call, Singer said Heinel called him and said that the fake profile he made for Abdelaziz’s daughter “was really well done,” and should be used going forward for “anybody who isn’t a real basketball player that’s a female.” And when Abdelaziz’s daughter did not show up to play for the basketball team, Singer said Heinel told admissions that she suffered an injury that would keep her out for 6-8 months.
Court documents allege that Heinel initiated several other “side door” deals, involving fraudulent recruiting profiles (including football) and test scores, in several sports at USC. In all, Singer’s clients made payments of “more than $1.3 million to USC accounts controlled by Heinel,” per court documents.
USC fired Heinel on Tuesday afternoon.
Here is USC’s statement regarding the college admissions investigation: pic.twitter.com/IwZUuWfWA5
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) March 12, 2019
Ali Khosroshahin and Laura Janke - USC women’s soccer
Singer “directed payments totaling approximately $350,000 to a private soccer club controlled by Khosroshahin and Laura Janke. Khosroshahin was fired by USC in 2013 after seven seasons as head coach, including a national championship. Janke was one of his assistants and has not coached at the school since Khosroshahin was let go. The two “designated four children of Singer’s clients as recruits” for the USC soccer team, “despite the fact that none of those children played competitive soccer.”
Janke, per court documents, “prepared” false profiles for applicants in multiple sports, not just women’s soccer. The sports included football, basketball, pole vaulting, crew, water polo, tennis, lacrosse and volleyball. In one profile, the son of insurance executive Toby MacFarlane was listed as a 6-foot-1 three-year varsity basketball player despite him only playing one year on varsity and being 5-foot-5.
After he was fired by USC, Khosroshahin was also paid by Singer — two payments of $25,000 — for directing children of his clients to Jorge Salcedo, the current men’s soccer head coach at UCLA.
Khosroshahin and Janke have both been indicted on a charge of racketeering conspiracy.
Jovan Vavic - USC water polo
On his USC bio page, Vavic is described as “one of the most decorated water polo coaches in the country.” He has 15 national championships and 14 national coach of the year awards under his belt.
According to court documents, “Singer and his co-conspirators made payments totaling $250,000 to a bank account at USC that funded Vavic’s water polo team.” Vavic designated two students — with “fabricated swimming times and awards” — as water polo recruits in exchange for the payments. In one email to a USC administrator, Vavic said one student would “be the fastest player on our team.”
“This kid can fly,” the email said.
Additionally, Singer made “private school tuition payments” for Vavic’s children “under the guise of a fabricated scholarship” in exchange for “Vavic’s commitment to designate Singer’s clients as recruits for the USC water polo team in the future.”
Vavic, who was fired by USC Tuesday afternoon, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of racketeering conspiracy.
He was reportedly arrested in Hawaii earlier Tuesday.
#USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic was arrested today in Hawaii, where the women's water polo team has a game this weekend
— InsideUSC (@InsideUSC) March 12, 2019
Jorge Salcedo - UCLA men’s soccer
At the behest of Singer, Khosroshahin forwarded the falsified the soccer profile of one student to Jorge Salcedo in 2016, per court documents. The student did not play competitive soccer.
Salcedo forwarded the student’s test scores to the UCLA women’s soccer coach. When she was provisionally admitted to UCLA as a student-athlete, Singer “directed a payment of $100,000” from a KWF account to a “sports marketing company Salcedo controlled.”
In 2018, Salcedo “designated the son of another one of Singer’s clients as a recruit for the UCLA men’s soccer team.” That student also did not play competitive soccer. In exchange, “Singer mailed Salcedo a check for $100,000.”
In both instances, Singer paid Khosroshahin $25,000 for “facilitating the transaction.”
Salcedo, a member of the United States men's national soccer team from 1994-1998, has been indicted by a federal grand jury on a charge of racketeering conspiracy. UCLA has placed Salcedo on leave. He will “will have no involvement with the soccer team while this matter is under review,” the school said.
Michael Center - Texas men’s tennis
In 2015, Center was paid “approximately $100,000” to designate the son of one of Singer’s clients as a tennis recruit, despite the student not playing tennis past his freshman year in high school.
Per court documents, Singer wrote a check payable to “Texas Athletics” for $25,000 in April 2015. In June 2015, a $15,000 check was mailed to Center. Later in June, Singer told investigators he flew to Austin, Texas, and “met with Center in a hotel parking lot,” where he “gave Center approximately $60,000 in cash.”
In September 2015, just after starting classes at Texas, the student “voluntarily withdrew” from the tennis team.
Center was later recorded on a call with Singer discussing a plan to get another student onto the tennis team as well as acknowledging the previous arrangement. Thusly, Center has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Center was arrested earlier Tuesday.
Texas tennis coach Michael Center has entered the courtroom wearing a burnt orange shirt and gray UT sweats - the clothing he had on when he was arrested this morning.
— Ryan Autullo (@AutulloAAS) March 12, 2019
Center was officially fired from the university on Wednesday.
Head Men’s Tennis Coach Michael Center has been dismissed from The University of Texas, Vice President and Athletics Director Chris Del Conte said on Wednesday.
— William Wilkerson (@Wilkerson_FWST) March 13, 2019
William Ferguson - Wake Forest volleyball
According to court documents, Singer “directed $100,000” be sent to Ferguson, including “a $10,000 check to the Wake Forest Deacon Club, a $40,000 check to Wake Forest Women’s Volleyball” and a “$50,000 check to a private volleyball camp Ferguson controlled.”
In exchange for the money, Ferguson agreed to designate the daughter of a Singer client as a women’s volleyball recruit. The client’s daughter had previously been on the wait list at Wake Forest.
Ferguson, who has been placed on administrative leave by Wake Forest, has been charged with racketeering conspiracy.
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