He is at the heart of the biggest college admissions scandal in recent memory. But who is the man who helped to put Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman behind bars?
He’s the silver-haired man who was captured by TV news cameras nimbly – and silently – rushing in and out of court when the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal broke. When it comes to the Justice Department’s investigation that led to the imprisonment of Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman and other wealthy parents who collectively paid millions of dollars to illegally get their kids into Ivy League schools, all roads lead to Rick Singer.
But who is the 60-year-old? That’s a question that Netflix tries to answer in their new documentary, Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal. Here’s what you need to know about the man who helped parents to bribe university sports coaches to get their kids into the top school of their choice.
How did Rick Singer get involved in the college admissions scandal?
According to court docs, Singer’s college admissions bribery scam started in 2011. But in 1990s Sacramento he established himself as a legitimate independent college counsellor, the go-to person to help high school seniors prep to apply for the university of their choice.
By 2018, however, the Justice Department alleged that he was helping wealthy parents conspire to get their teens through the Ivy League “side door” illegally. The government says Singer did so by bribing coaches, as well as “college entrance exam administrators,” whom he allegedly got on board to “facilitate cheating on college entrance exams,” according to court docs.
In June 2018 he bragged to one client about creating a “side door” into the nation’s top schools. “My families want a guarantee,” he said, court docs reveal. “So, if you said to me, ‘Here’s our grades, here’s our scores, here’s our ability, and we want to go to X school’ and you give me one or two schools…I’ll go after those schools and try to get a guarantee done.”
How did he get caught?
“Singer didn’t make a fateful mistake that led to his being exposed…” Daniel Golden, author of The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges – And Who Gets Left Outside the Gates, said in Netflix’s doc. “[Somebody] was arrested on an unrelated securities charge and that person traded information. That financial executive said, ‘You may be interested to know that a coach at Yale asked me for a bribe.’”
The coach in question was Rudy Meredith, who pointed the finger at Singer by becoming a cooperating informant. Rick in turn became a cooperating witness and allowed his telephone conversations to be taped, which helped ensnare clients like Hollywood stars Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
Where is Rick Singer now?
Singer is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to a slew of criminal charges, including racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and obstruction of justice. In 2020 he spent most of the year working on a doctorate in psychology at Arizona’s Grand Canyon University, according to USA Today.
How much time does he face in prison?
When it comes to time behind bars, the Justice Department recommends “the low end of the Guidelines sentencing range,” according to its website. In particular, “3 years of supervised release” and “fine and forfeiture” have been suggested.
Who plays him in ‘Operation Varsity Blues’?
In between interviews with experts and people who knew Singer (including a co-defendant and former colleagues), the Netflix doc features recreated scenes with the main characters played by actors. Stranger Things star Matthew Modine plays Singer.
Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal premieres on Netflix on March 17, 2021.