Surely by now you have read about the hilarious FBI bust on and subsequent dismantling of The Edge College & Career Network (aka The Key), and its nefarious efforts to get the underachieving sons and daughters of the rich into colleges they either didn’t deserve to attend on merits or couldn’t bribe their way into the old-fashioned way. The multi-million dollar college entrance exam cheating scandal has reportedly entangled 44 people, including several college coaches and a few Hollywood types, though celebrity involvement is far less interesting or funny than the actual mechanics of how this particular crop of gross rich people tried to sneak their unwitting children into college.
The FBI’s case describes a multi-pronged scheme that the parents and one of the founders of The Key (who is described as a cooperating witness, or CW-1 in the filings) participated in. One prong of the scam required the parents to earn their kids extra time to take the ACT or SAT—often by having them diagnosed with a phony learning disability—so that the test would be administered at a special location where CW-1 could bribe the proctor into altering the scores. Parents also, at CW-1's direction, went about creating fake athletic profiles for their children, which would then allow college coaches and administrators who were in on the scheme to get their kids into school as athletic recruits.
The court filings related to the case contain hundreds of pages describing various instances of this scam being carried out, including emails and transcripts from recorded phone calls. Among them are some truly wild details of the lengths CW-1 and his clients went to in order to get some rich kids into college.
Here, the main cooperating witness (CW-1) explains how the “side door” scheme works:
A majority of the fake credentials fabricated by CW-1 and cooperating parents involved pretending the kid in question was a star athlete of some sort, which allowed them to be subject to more lax admissions criteria, or simply gave them leeway to bribe a coach. This dad, for example, tried to get his son into USC and Stanford via the football team despite his son never playing football. The solution was to pretend he was a “kicker/punter” and photoshop his face onto a real kicker for application photos:
CW-1 had to coach this here dad on how to lie to his kid about going to the wrong orientation:
The Henriquez parents wanted to get their daughter into Georgetown, but the feds realized that she was just awful at tennis (the footnote is brutal):
The Stanford sailing team allegedly cleaned up!
We also have fake rowers, as well as a high school student who couldn’t fill out her own application.
You will notice USC features prominently in the FBI investigation. Their findings allege that USC Senior Associate Director Donna Heinel was in on the scheme, and even personally took bribes of $20,000 per month in exchange for accepting an applicant as a fake basketball player:
Heinel apparently considered this the model going forward:
Here CW-1 explains how Heinel’s alleged kickback scheme works to a parent who tried to get her daughter into USC using a fake water polo photo:
Here we have parents trying to get their daughter into USC via the rowing team, despite her not rowing and also getting an F in art history. They allegedly lied about her credentials and had someone take online classes for her:
USC men’s water polo coach Jovan Vavic was allegedly in on the scheme, and he apparently lied that a fake recruit would be the fastest swimmer on his team:
The recruitment of the following fake water polo recruit is my favorite anecdote in the whole trove of FBI documents. This Sloane character allegedly chose water polo as the route for his son into USC, despite the fact that he never played water polo and his high school didn’t have a water polo team. So Sloane bought a bunch of water polo stuff on Amazon and conducted a photo shoot, which CW-1 advised him on:
Unfortunately for Sloane and his non-water polo playing son, the guidance counselor at his high school noticed that he got into USC as a water polo player, which seemed incredibly fishy. Sloane alerted CW-1 that the guidance counselor was snooping around and asking questions of the USC admissions office. In order to put out the fire and keep the scheme alive, CW-1 had Heinel send an email to the USC Director of Admissions in which she tried to explain why Sloane’s son had been recruited to play a sport his high school didn’t even offer:
Here we have the lovely story of a parent getting his son into USC as a pole vaulter with a photoshopped picture of someone pole vaulting. The only problem? The son didn’t know he was admitted through the track and field team:
Here we have CW-1 creating a fake athletic profile for a USC basketball recruit in which a 5-foot-5 kid is brazenly listed at 6-foot-1:
When parents weren’t faking athletics credentials, they were faking “learning differences” for their children ...
... getting around their actually smart kids figuring out something was up ...
... trying to get them not to take standardized tests again for a better score after seeing their initial fake scores ...
... and roasting their kids for their objectively awful handwriting.
I leave you now with the collected academic wisdom of Lori Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia, who allegedly got in to USC thanks to $500,000 in bribes that got her classified as fake member of the rowing team.