College Admissions Bribery scandal

The Ivy League Schools Admission Scandal 2019

Most parents out of love for their kids would do almost anything to ensure their progress in life. But where do you draw the line?

It’s appaling to know how far some people will go to get the best for their children, even to the extent of breaking the law! This is exactly what the thirty-three parents in today’s post did. An action that has ‘deservedly’ gotten them into trouble with the law

I was shocked when I read about the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal in March this year. Shocked because the International media makes it seem like corruption can only be found in certain parts of the world. This is why we need to do more to change the narrative.

The Scandal

The scandal which has been named “Operation Varsity Blues” involved some Hollywood celebrities and prominent business leaders influencing their children’s admission into top American Universities.

It is a criminal investigation that implicated about thirty-three parents of college applicants. They were accused to have paid over $25 million to ‘William Rick Singer‘ (organiser of the scheme) between 2011-2019, to fraudulently inflate test scores and bribe college officials.

William Rick Singer


Federal prosecutors alleged a college-admission scheme that involved:

  • bribing exam administrators to facilitate cheating on college and university entrance exams;
  • bribing coaches and administrators of elite universities to nominate unqualified applicants as elite recruited athletes, thus facilitating the applicants’ admission
  • Using a charitable organisation to conceal the source and nature of bribery payments.

Wealthy parents paid Singer to illegally arrange to have their children admitted to elite schools by bribing admissions testing officials, athletics staff, and coaches at universities.

Payments were made to Key Worldwide Foundation – a nonprofit organisation owned by Singer and previously granted 501(c)(3) status; that status allowed him to avoid federal income taxes on the payments, while parents could deduct their “donations” from their own personal taxes.

Parents Involved

Here are some of the wealthy patents involved in the scandal. The most popular faces are that of actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. The full list of parents involved can be found here.

Jane Buckingham – author and the founder of the boutique marketing agency Trendera. Her clients include Target, Nickelodeon, Hearst, StubHub, and Hilton Worldwide.

Robert Flaxman; a graduate of the University of Southern California and the chief executive of Crown Realty & Development Inc.

Mossimo Giannulli; fashion designer whose name became a house brand at Target. His wife, Lori Loughlin is an actor best known for playing Aunt Becky on the sitcom Full House and its more recent Netflix spinoff Fuller House. The two are alleged to have paid bribes totaling $500,000 to get their two influencer daughters accepted to USC as “recruits to the USC crew team—despite the fact that they did not participate in crew.”

Douglas Hodge – former CEO of Pacific Investment Management Co. Pimco, one of the largest bond fund managers in the world.

Felicity Huffman is an Emmy-winning actor best known for her role on Desperate Housewives. She’s alleged to have paid $15,000 as a “purported charitable contribution to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter.” Though mentioned in the indictment, her husband, actor William H. Macy has not been charged because of lack of evidence.

Stephen Semprevivo is an executive at Cydcor, a “privately held provider of outsourced sales teams” who “agreed to bribe…the Georgetown tennis coach…to designate his son as a tennis recruit (despite the fact that he did not play tennis competitively). He did this to facilitate his admission to Georgetown,” according to the indictment.

Devin Slone is the founder and CEO of waterTALENT, a “provider of drinking water and wastewater systems, among other businesses.” In order to get his son into USC, he apparently had his son photoshopped onto photos of actual water polo-players.😱

Homayoun Zadeh is an associate professor of dentistry at USC. He is alleged to have presented his daughter as an elite lacrosse player. In an email to Singer, Zadeh wrote that his daughter worried that “she did not get in on her own merits.”

Schools involved

There are eight Universities implicated in the ‘Varsity Blues Scandal’.These 8 are being investigated by the U.S Education Department.

The schools involved are Yale, Stanford, Wake Forest, Georgetown University, University of San-Diego. The Others are University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Texas at Austin.


A lot has happened since the scandal broke in March. Some of the parents have been arraigned and have pleaded guilty and some of them have lost their jobs. Indicted school coaches have been dismissed and suspended and some of the children have been expelled.

Actress Lori Loughlin who was a regular on the Hallmark channel has been relieved of her job. Hallmark quickly parted ways with the actress as did Netflix. She was on the ‘Fuller House’ show on Netflix until the scandal broke. Netflix has confirmed that she will not be returning to the show.

Mr McGlashan’s job was terminated by his equity firm TPG while Gordon Caplan was suspended and stripped as a partner of his law firm. Doug Hodge was asked to step down as board member of two Californian private schools he was involved in.

Dr Hamayoun Zadeh, a prominent Californian dentist has been placed on administrative leave from his position as the director of the Laboratory for Immunoregulation and Tissue Engineering at the University of Southern California and has lost 3 book contracts.

Gregory Abbot, a beverage magnate who has pleaded guilty to his charge was according to the police, beaten up by his rapper son ‘Malcolm Abbot’ who raps under the name ‘Billa’. 😱

Malcolm has also used the criminal case against his parents to sell T-shirts on his Instagram page.🤑

Coaches involved in the scandal like the Stanford Sailing coach have been fired with others placed on leave. Some others are facing disciplinary actions. According to NYTimes, prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of assets from Gordon Ernst. Ernst is the former head tennis coach at George Town University.

A television show based on the scandal is already been developed. There are also talks of a movie on it – oh Hollywood!🙄

How Much Did the Children Know?

Not all the children were aware of their parent’s actions. One of them, son of Marketing Executive, Jack Buckingham actually wrote a piece in the Hollywood reporter condemning his mum’s actions.

Jack and Jane Buckingham

Jack Buckingham in a statement had this to say, “I have been advised not to speak on the matter at hand but what I will say is this,” before writing: “I know there are millions of kids out there both wealthy and less fortunate who grind their ass off just to have a shot at the college of their dreams. I am upset that I was unknowingly involved in a large scheme that helps give kids who may not work as hard as others an advantage over those who truly deserve those spots.”

Isabelle Henriquez

Isabelle Enriquez was very much aware of the action taken on her behalf and even gloated with her mum about getting answers to her SAT tests.

Intensive Parenting

The scandal has brought to the forefront the extent some parents will go to clear away any obstacle to their children’s success. Even when it requires crossing ethical and legal boundaries.

There are different terms for that kind of parenting today, ‘intensive parenting, Helicopter parenting’, ‘Snow-plough parenting’.

Helicopter parenting is simply the practice of hovering anxiously near one’s children, monitoring all their activities. This is not altogether bad it could, however, get out of hand if not watched.

Snowplow parents are parents that clear any obstacle in their child’s path to success so they don’t encounter failure. This form is more extreme than Helicopter parenting.


To think this scandal began with a financial executive, Marrie Tobin being investigated on an unrelated securities fraud case. He gave the FBI a tip about a coach asking him for a bribe to get his daughter into Yale. 🤔

The coach was subsequently recorded accepting bribe from Mr Tobin. And so began the unravelling of the biggest education scandal the U.S has ever seen.

It is a parents job to support their children, but it should be done with wisdom to prepare them for the future. Children should be allowed to develop problem-solving skills so that they can cope in times of crisis.

They should be allowed to make their own mistakes and have challenges as this will help them cope in future and in situations when mum and dad are unable to clear the obstacle.

As a psychologist, Ms Lythcott-Haims rightly said, “The point is to prepare the kid for the road, instead of preparing the road for the kid”. When in helping our children advance we intentionally break the law, what are we then teaching them about morale and ethics? How are we helping them prepare for the future, will they be able to cope in trying circumstances especially when their parents are not available?

When does parenting become over-parenting? how long are you willing to go for your children? Let’s discuss.

Aunty Lulu.





4 thoughts on “When Enabling Children Goes too Far

  1. Interesting read Aunty Lulu, I won’t pretend by acting like I’m not aware of people using influence and favours to get children/wards into institutions even primary schools are not left out. I can do it for my children, but what I can’t do is falsify results for them or help them cheat, that is unacceptable.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. It is my belief that parents should help their children whenever necessary as long as they are alive – no matter the child’s age. It is important to set them up for life by giving them good education and ensuring that they are confident, responsible and mature enough to weather life’s storms. The truth, however, is that the world is mostly about who knows who, and even though your child qualifies for something, they may not get it because some other people are being favoured and most times not even on merit. Therefore, wherever I can press buttons for my children I will, but like you, I will never cheat for them.
      Thanks for your comments Bola.

  2. Who would have thought things could get this bad in such Ivy league schools? This was a good read- first time Iam actually reading about it beyond the headline.

Comments are closed.