A Sacramento man is at the center of a high-profile college admissions scam for which an indictment was unsealed Tuesday, implicating TV actresses, CEOs and coaches in bribery efforts totaling $25 million to arrange for children to get into top U.S. schools.
FBI and federal prosecutors say William Rick Singer, a resident of Sacramento and Newport Beach and the owner of for-profit and nonprofit education groups, led a racketeering conspiracy that involved cheating on standardized tests, according to an indictment filed in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts.
Singer, 59, is accused of facilitating cheating on SAT and ACT exams in exchange for monetary bribes, most ranging between $15,000 and $75,000 per test. In some cases, a third party would “secretly take the exams in place of the actual students,” the indictment says.
The scam took place between about 2011 through September 2018, the indictment says.
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Singer ran a for-profit college counseling business called The Edge College and Career Network, also known as “The Key,” according to the indictment.
At least two other Sacramento-area residents are among the 50 people named in the indictment, and are charged in the Eastern District of California.
According to the charging documents, Steven Masera, 69, is a resident of Folsom. Until December 2017, Masera worked as an accountant and financial officer for the Edge College & Career Network, LLC and the Key Worldwide Foundation, in Newport Beach.
According to the charging documents, Mikaela Sanford, 32, was a resident of Folsom, and was employed in various capacities for The Key.
Sanford’s next-door neighbor, Douglas Dean Sr., said authorities came to arrest her at their apartment complex.
“I looked out, I saw a guy standing out there – a cop over here, I saw a badge ... she had already opened the door by then, and they all went in and I just went ‘Whoa,’ ” Dean said. “She’s a very, very sweet lady, very good neighbor ... I thought ‘Wow. What could somebody like her possibly do, as far as all the banging on the door?”
Singer’s history in the Sacramento region has been documented in previous stories by The Bee for decades.
In 1994, The Bee reported that Singer had founded Future Stars, a college counseling service that charged either $50 an hour or a $1,200 flat fee for counseling throughout high school and their first year of college. Singer boasted that for some clients, he would set up “car rentals, plane reservations and hotels.”
“I get information from schools even in places the student said they wouldn’t consider,” Singer told The Bee in 1994. “Because of my background in coaching, I’ve visited a tremendous number of schools all around the country.”
Singer in 1988 was fired as boys basketball coach of Encina High School, with a district spokesman at the time only referring to it as a“personnel matter.” The Bee reported at the time that parents said Singer had an abusive nature toward referees.
In the early 90s, Sacramento Bee archives show Singer was an assistant coach for Sacramento State’s men’s basketball team.
In 2014, a book penned by Singer titled “Getting In: Gaining Admission to the College of your Choice,” was published and made available on Amazon. The book’s description emphasizes the importance of establishing a “personal brand” to get into a top school.
Singer funneled money under the guise of charitable donations by the parents. Singer arranged for payments of at least $10,000 per test in bribes to ACT and SAT administrators in Los Angeles and Houston, the indictment said.
The plot involved top universities across the nation, including Georgetown University, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Southern California, University of Texas, Wake Forest, and Yale.
TV actress Lori Loughlin, known for her role on “Full House,” reportedly paid $500,000 in bribes to have her two daughters admitted to USC’s crew team. Another actress, Felicity Huffman, is also named.
Coaches at Wake Forest University, Georgetown and USC reportedly took bribes to admit student athletes.
Singer faces charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and racketeering.