Lori Loughlin Convicted in American College Admissions Scandal: What is it?

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: August 24, 2020 12:10:49 PM

Lori Loughlin, Mossimo Giannulli, Lori Loughlin Convicted, Lori Loughlin Prison, College Admission Scandal, American College Admission Scandal, Operation Varsity Blues, Express Explained, Indian ExpressLori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli were ordered to pay fines of $ 150,000 and $ 250,000 and complete 100 and 250 hours of community service, respectively. (Photo: AP)

Since it was first reported in March last year, the U.S. admissions scandal has seen many high-profile figures convicted, including television personalities, business leaders and top lawyers.

Last on the list is ‘Full House’ actress Lori Loughlin, who was convicted on Friday (August 21) up to a two-month prison sentence for participating in the racket. Her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, will be sent to prison for five months. Loughlin and Giannulli were also ordered to pay respective fines of $ 150,000 and $ 250,000 and complete 100 and 250 hours of community service, Reuters reported.

In total, the bribery scam involving parents who from 2011 to early 2019 paid around $ 25 million to the organizers of the scheme, whose reach extended to some of the most prestigious American universities, including Stanford, Yale, and Georgetown.


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What is the U.S. Higher Education Admissions Scandal?

The main accused, William Singer, who apparently had a college counseling service, ran into a racket that allowed his clients to attend elite schools, in exchange for hefty payments. The clients, who used Singer’s services for their children, were aware of the criminal nature of the scheme – which Singer has since revealed has been used by about 750 families.

In March 2019, the U.S. Justice Department categorized the racket into three parts: arranging a third party to take the SAT and ACT standardized tests instead of actual students, falsely designating applicants as potential recruits for university athletic teams, and laundering money using charitable accounts.

In the first part, Singer would use compromised overseers to ensure the required test results for his clients, who took the competitive exams at centers he supervised. This would sometimes involve the students taking a learning disability in order to have extended time to complete the test – strenuous days, during which the invigilators would lead them to the correct answers. This ‘service’ costs anywhere between US $ 15,000- $ 75,000.

The second part, which has caused the greatest annoyance, is the transfer of coaches responsible for non-mainstream sports such as volleyball, football, water polo, and tennis to top universities. Singer would influence these coaches in assigning permissions to seats reserved for elite athletes. Singer would also create fake CVs of his clients and show them off as accomplished athletes, all with the knowledge of these varsity coaches.

Finally, the Department of Justice accused the suspected culprits of money laundering, with a false charity to siphon the funds collected from parents.

Operation Varsity Blues

Since March 2019, U.S. prosecutors have charged 56 people with crimes related to the scandal, the investigation into which was code-named Operation Varsity Blues. Of these, more than 40 people have pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty, the list including chief conspirator William Singer, parents, college coaches and administrators.

According to a CNN report, 20 have been convicted so far. In September last year, ‘Desperate Housewives’ actor Felicity Huffman was sent to prison for two weeks and fined $ 30,000. The hardest hit came in February this year, when Douglas Hodge, the retired CEO of a top investment firm, was sentenced to nine months in prison and fined $ 750,000.

Also explained in | Who is Donald Harris, the economist father of Kamala Harris?

Changes at US colleges

After the scandal broke, the nature and extent gave rise to a wave of public outrage, with grieving parents demanding a transparent process for college admission. Since then, some universities and colleges have adopted new procedures.

The University of Southern California now requires each head coach to provide in writing that prospective students be admitted on the basis of athletic ability, and a department of colleges must verify that the student eventually joins a team after enrollment.

At the University of Virginia, students enrolling in sports teams are now being asked to sign a pledge that they will actually participate in those teams, according to a New York Times report.

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