At least 40 people, including a former Yale soccer coach, have been indicted by the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Boston in a nationwide college entrance exam cheating scandal that was dubbed by feds as "Operation Varsity Blues."
The documents, which were unsealed Tuesday morning, allege that the accused aimed to facilitate students getting into high-profile D-1 schools, including Georgetown, Stanford, UCLA, Yale, University of Texas, University of San Diego, University of Southern California and Wake Forest as recruited athletes regardless of their athletic ability.
The former head women’s soccer coach at Yale University, 51-year-old Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, 51, of Madison, was charged conspiracy to commit wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and honest services wire fraud.
Investigators said the schools themselves were not involved in the scheme, but rather the parents, coaches, and others charged manipulated the systems the universities had in place.
“The Department of Justice believes that Yale has been the victim of a crime perpetrated by its former women’s soccer coach. The university has cooperated fully in the investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case moves forward,” said Yale spokesperson Thomas Conroy in a statement.
Investigators said in most cases, the students, who are currently enrolled in elite universities across the country, didn’t know that their parents had bought their way in.
Federal prosecutors allege wealthy parents paid "enormous sums" to guarantee their child's admission to elite universities. The students would allegedly be labeled as recruited athletes when they were not -- with some going as far as photoshopping their faces onto stock sports images -- by a consulting company at the heart of the scheme, which is also accused of bribing college entrance exam administrators to let a Florida man to take the tests on the students' behalf or replace their answers with his own.
Rob Colgate, a student-athlete himself at Yale, says he doesn’t think their scheme will pay off in the long-run.
“They’re going to be in for it when they get to school and they haven’t built up the capacity to actually perform at that high of an academic level,” Colgate said.
In the case of students whose parents bribed their way onto college sports teams, investigators say the students either didn’t show up to practice, faked an injury, or quit after a few weeks.
The scandal also included acts of alleged tax fraud, after the owner of the consulting company, William Rick Singer, agreed to shield the payments for bribes as charitable contributions to his company's non-profit, which allowed the wealthy parents to deduct the bribes from their taxes, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors allege that Meredith conspired with Singer, the owner of Edge College & Career Network and the accused at the center of the scheme, to take bribes from the parents of college hopefuls.
In one case, Meredith and Singer worked together to have a Yale applicant, whom did not have a background in competitive soccer, to have an athletic "profiles" that allegedly described her as a "co-captain of a prominent club soccer team in southern California." Meredith received a check for $400,000 after the student was admitted to Yale, and the relatives of the student ultimately paid Singer about $1.2 million in multiple payments, according to court documents.
Court records say that Meredith met with the father of another Yale applicant at a Boston hotel room in April 2018 and told the dad that he would designate the applicant as a recruit for the women’s soccer team in exchange for $450,000 in payments, then accepted $2,000 as a partial payment. Less than a week later, Meredith received another $4,000.
“As the indictment makes clear, the Department of Justice believes that Yale has been the victim of a crime perpetrated by its former women’s soccer coach. The university has cooperated fully in the investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case moves forward,” Thomas Conroy, Yale spokesman, said in a statement.
NBC Connecticut has attempted to reach Meredith but attempts were not successful as of Tuesday afternoon.
In all, Singer's company allegedly received payments totaling at least $25 million from 2011 until last month to facilitate the scheme. Singer will plead guilty to fraud charges in Boston's federal courthouse later Tuesday, according to Lelling.