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Have Mercy! College Cheating Scandal Nabs Hollywood Stars, Among Others

Let’s face it: There are certain perks that come from being wealthy.

When money is no object, you can afford the flashy car, the big house, and the absolute best schools for your children.

I am not wealthy, but I do not hold it against those who are. I don’t covet what they have, and I’m a champion for self-sufficiency, and the rewards that can follow innovative, creative minds. I don’t see the wealthy as enemies, as bad people, or an “Us versus Them” situation.

Capitalism is our friend.

That being said, having wealth doesn’t make someone honest, upstanding, or smart, either.

When people choose to use their wealth to move things in dishonest directions, for their benefit and at the expense of others, bad things can happen.

I’m a Christian, and as such, I don’t buy into the notion of karma. I do believe, however, that there is justice in the world, and you can only play in corruption for so long before your number comes up.

So let’s talk about William Rick Singer, and his for-profit college counseling and preparation business called “The Key.”

Mr. Singer is at the center of a wide reaching scandal involving influential parents, looking to get their pampered offspring into top-notch colleges, based on greenbacks, and not academic prowess.

Federal prosecutors said the scheme had two major pieces. In the first part, parents allegedly paid a college prep organization to take the test on behalf of students or correct their answers. Secondly, the organization allegedly bribed college coaches to help admit the students into college as recruited athletes, regardless of their actual ability, prosecutors said.

The documents also allege that some defendants created fake athletic profiles for students to make them appear to be successful athletes.

So the indictment against Singer alleges that he paid college coaches from schools such as Yale, Wake Forest, University of Southern California, Georgetown, and Stanford to claim that prospective student A, B, or C was a suitable recruit for their sports team.

They, in fact, were not.

In one case, Singer even worked with parents to take staged photos of their child engaged in particular sports. In another example, they used stock photos of a person playing a sport and then put the face of a student onto that of an athlete via Photoshop, prosecutors said.

Singer was paid roughly $25 million by parents to help their children get in to schools, the US attorney said.

Incredible.

Seriously. If you have that kind of money to cheat with, but your child is less than an exemplary student, there is no shame in aiming lower.

The investigation has been dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” – pretty clever – and has netted arrests against 50 people: 33 parents, 2 SAT/ACT administrators, 1 exam proctor, 1 college administrator, and 9 coaches at these elite schools.

Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, spoke earlier Tuesday about the case:

“This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud,” Lelling said. “There can be no separate college admission system for the wealthy, and I’ll add that there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.”

He added, “For every student admitted through fraud, an honest genuinely talented student was rejected.”

And that is the part that should enrage people. Somewhere out there are kids who may have less privilege, but had natural gifts or a better work ethic, and deserved a shot, but missed out.

What’s burning up social media now, however, is some of the names included in the indictments in this case.

One is actress Felicity Huffman, Emmy Award-winning star of “Desperate Housewives” and wife of actor William H. Macy (“Shameless”).

Huffman was taken into federal custody earlier Tuesday, without incident.

She’s charged with making a “charitable donation” of around $15,000 to participate in what was a cheating scheme on the college entrance exam, in order to benefit her oldest daughter. She went back for a second bite of the apple to benefit her younger daughter, but later decided against it.

They have her on telephone recordings, so yeah.

Macy is not named in the indictments.

A second name some of us know very well is Lori Loughlin.

Loughlin, for those struggling, is probably best known as “Aunt Becky,” from the TV series, “Full House.”

She and her husband, fashion designer, Mossimo Giannulli, paid $500,000 in bribes to have their two daughters designated as potential crew team recruits for USC.

These kids do not participate in any crew teams.

There are emails from Loughlin that have her nailed.

The charges of most of those involved include mail fraud and wire fraud, and it’s a pretty pathetic way to bring yourself down – as well as your children.

Listening to authorities discuss the case in an earlier press conference, it was said of those parents nabbed that there was no coded talk, or mere allusions to the scam.

No, as one lawyer said, this was an airtight case, with the parents openly discussing the bribes and dirty tricks they were paying for. None of them were gullible or unwitting. They knew exactly what they were doing. They knew it was wrong.

Sadly, they’ve done these things and set a very bad example for their children.

I’m sure they’ll get the very best lawyers and the end result will be hefty fines, perhaps some probationary measures.

Their children will likely be booted from school, and those parents will have to send them to less reputable colleges.

Ultimately, the end result will not ruin them for life. It is, however, a stark lesson in ethics.

Some of us have it.

Some of us have money.

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