Labeling him the architect and mastermind of a criminal conspiracy that “massively corrupted the integrity of the college admissions process,” federal prosecutors recommended in court documents filed this week that William Rick Singer, the college admissions consultant at the center of Operation Varsity Blues, serve six years in prison.
But lawyers for Mr. Singer asked for a maximum of six months in prison and filed a “statement of responsibility and relapse prevention plan” signed by Mr. Singer. In the document, also filed this week with the U.S. District Court in Boston, Mr. Singer expressed remorse. “I have woken up every day feeling shame, remorse and regret,” he wrote.
Mr. Singer, 62, is scheduled to be sentenced next week in the admissions scandal that ensnared more than 50 parents, exam proctors and coaches in a scheme that used payoffs to secure college acceptance for students with fabricated high school resumes, including enhanced athletic records and SAT scores.
Among those who pleaded guilty were the actors Felicity Huffman, who arranged through Mr. Singer to have her daughter’s SAT score boosted, and Lori Loughlin, whose daughters posed in faked rowing photos in an attempt to secure college admission.
A former college admissions adviser who catered to wealthy parents, Mr. Singer took in more than $25 million from clients and paid $7 million in bribes to coaches of college sports, including rowing, sailing, soccer, tennis and volleyball, federal prosecutors said.
More on America’s College Campuses
- Harvard: The university announced that its new president would be Claudine Gay. She will be the first Black leader of Harvard, and the second woman to hold the position.
- Tuition Reset: A New Hampshire college slashed its tuition price to $17,500 from about $46,000, joining a national trend that’s part marketing move and part reality check.
- U.C. Employee Strike: The University of California and academic workers announced a tentative labor agreement, signaling a potential end to a high-profile strike that has disrupted the system for more than a month.
- Affirmative Action: The Supreme Court appears ready to rule that two race-conscious admissions programs were unlawful, a move that would overrule decades of precedents.
Coaches from colleges including Yale, Stanford, U.S.C., Wake Forest and Georgetown were entangled in the scheme.
Calling his crime “breathtaking in its audacity,” prosecutors noted that Mr. Singer had found demand in “wealthy and overprivileged clients” who were attempting to rig a system that “already favors those with wealth and privilege.”
Mr. Singer, who pleaded guilty in 2019, became a government informant after prosecutors began investigating his scheme in 2018.
In documents filed with the court, Mr. Singer’s lawyer, Candice L. Fields, wrote that her client, a former coach, had built a legitimate college admissions counseling service in California. But as he became increasingly successful, he began to game the system, she wrote.
“As his clients became more affluent, he found that some could afford to buy college admissions through the ‘back door,’ by making a very large donation to a school to promote the student’s admission,” Ms. Fields wrote. Over time, she wrote, those legal donations veered into unlawful territory.
“Faced with parents’ unrealistic hopes to place their children at elite universities, and motivated by his early life trauma to win at all costs, Rick failed to distinguish the moral difference between the iniquitous but lawful ‘back door’ approach and the fraudulent sale of academic spots through the ‘side door.’”
Mr. Singer now lives a humbled life in a trailer park for seniors in St. Petersburg, Fla., and is unable to find a job. He is currently performing volunteer work.
In court filings, Mr. Singer says unspecified childhood trauma played a significant role in his behavior. Details about the childhood trauma have been disclosed under seal to the court.
“Through my very recent work with a psychologist, I have gained some disturbing but important insight into the suppressed childhood trauma that I suffered, and how that trauma played a significant role in my behavior later in life,” he wrote.
In making its recommendation for a six-year prison term, the government said that, while Mr. Singer’s cooperation was “hugely significant” in prosecuting the case, he had nevertheless obstructed the investigation by erasing text messages and tipping off at least six families to the fact that his phone was bugged.
The recommendation, filed by Rachael S. Rollins, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, was contained in a document filed on Wednesday. It also calls for Mr. Singer to forfeit about $8.7 million in assets and pay the Internal Revenue Service more than $10.6 million.
The tax bill is related to the way in which Mr. Singer instructed his clients to funnel bribes and other payments through two nonprofit organizations he had established, disguising the payments as charitable contributions.
The organizations were ostensibly created to “provide educational and self-enrichment programs to disadvantaged youth,” the government said.
Mr. Singer has already made partial restitution.
In a separate document, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it had been unable to locate alleged offshore assets of Mr. Singer’s in banks in Madrid, Panama, the Middle East and Nassau, the Bahamas.
Michael Kendall, a lawyer for another Varsity Blues defendant, John Wilson, wrote in a letter to the court in February that he had learned that Mr. Singer had assets in offshore accounts, citing several banks. Mr. Singer has denied the claim.
Mr. Wilson, a private equity financier, was convicted in 2021, but his case is on appeal.