On Tuesday, nearly 50 people were charged in a widespread college admissions cheating plot so bafflingly intricate, it almost puts all other scams to shame. An explosive FBI investigation (appropriately dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” because what else would it be called?) exposed the bizarre details of the plot, included the Photoshopping of wealthy students’s heads onto athletes’ bodies, alleged cheating on the SAT and ACT exams, a vlogger, and actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, who are among those charged for their alleged participation in the largest college admissions swindling plot in the history of the United States.
As details about the plot continue to emerge, information about the men alleged to be behind the scheme — William “Rick” Singer and Mark Riddell — have become available. Here’s what we know about them.
The alleged mastermind of the scam is a life coach named William “Rick” Singer, who wore a wire during the FBI investigation.
A life coach named William “Rick” Singer admitted in Boston court on Tuesday that he served as a “cooperating witness” and wore a wire during the FBI investigation into the college admissions scandal — a scam that he allegedly devised in the first place, NBC News reports.
Singer, 58, has reportedly been in the college prep business since the ’90s. In 2007, he founded of The Edge College & Career Network, LLC, otherwise known as The Key, a life-coaching and college-counseling for-profit business; his nonprofit Key Worldwide Foundation was established in 2012. Singer is also the author of Getting In: Gaining Admission to the College of Your Choice, a 2014 book in which he reportedly declared that that kids need to establish a “personal brand” to get into big name colleges, per NBC News.
BuzzFeed News reports that Singer received $25 million from wealthy parents over the course of his scam — and although much of the money allegedly went toward bribes or ACT and SAT exam cheating to help rich kids get into school, he would record the money as tax-deductible donations to his charity. Singer, 58, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to racketeering, money laundering, obstruction of justice and conspiracy, and faces a maximum of 65 years in jail.
A pro tennis player named Mark Riddell was allegedly the one who was actually helping kids cheat on exams.
While Singer is believed to be the actual mastermind, a pro tennis player named Mark Riddell was allegedly the person who helped rich kids cheat on their college entrance exams, the Washington Post reports.
Prosecutors allege that Riddell is the one who would actually fill out bubbles of SAT and ACT for the kids. According to prosecutors, Riddell didn’t have inside information on the exam answers; he was just smart enough to get a near-perfect score on his own. Some of the kids would think they were taking the tests for themselves, and other times, Riddell “actively assisted them” during the exam, the Post reports. He would allegedly help get scores that parents asked for — but that weren’t too good, so as to avoid suspicion.
Riddell has been “suspended indefinitely” from private sports school IMG Academy in Florida, where he served as director of college entrance exam preparation. He is an alum of the academy, and was a NCAA Division I tennis player at Harvard University.
Riddell is reportedly expected to appear in court on Wednesday on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He has allegedly been cooperating with the investigation since February “in the hope of obtaining leniency when he is sentenced,” prosecutors said.