College Blues: Are Any East Enders Caught in This Bribery Scandal?

Yale University campus
Photo: iStock

As I am sure you know, because it’s been all over the media, 50 people—including parents of some very rich teenagers—have been arrested for allegedly paying large sums of money that wound up in the pockets of college coaches and admission people and others who could arrange for their kids to get accepted at elite colleges such as Stanford, Yale, USC, Georgetown and Wake Forest.

Many wealthy people in the entertainment business and investment business have been charged, among them the actress Lori Loughlin, Rebecca on Fuller House, who’s been photographed attending parties in the Hamptons. She regularly visits family in Hauppauge in central Long Island, where she grew up. Last summer, she graced the cover of Bella, a glossy magazine distributed out here, and was the honoree at Bella’s white summer party held in Southampton. She and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, have been accused of paying half a million dollars to get their two daughters, now 19 and 21, into USC and, the complaint alleges, pretending they were members of a rowing team in high school, when in fact they had never rowed on any team.

Photo shoots were said to be arranged to show them wearing rowing gear and, on another occasion, on exercise machines in a gym. Investigators say these are not the only incidents involving students in the alleged scandal, and the school says it is conducting its own internal investigation.

The younger of the two daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli, is a star in her own right. She has 1.3 million followers on Instagram and more than 2 million on YouTube, and following her acceptance to USC she showed off her dorm room and spoke to her followers about it. The New York Post published some of her social media material.

There’s a photo on Instagram of her sitting on her bed. “Officially a college student!” the caption reads. “It’s been a few weeks since I moved into my dorm and I absolutely love it. I got everything I needed from Amazon with @primestudent and had it all shipped to me in just two days.”

She posted a video on YouTube about her being a college student. “[I] really…. [just] wanted the ‘experience’ of partying….I don’t know how much of school I’m gonna attend…But I’m gonna go in and talk to my deans and everyone, and hope that I can try and balance it all. But I do want the experience of like game days, partying, I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”

Another post has her talking about the Smile Direct Club. It was her “invisible aligner treatment” for “back-to-school season.” And in an interview for Teen Vogue she talked more about Amazon (Amazon, Smile Direct Club and others have sponsored her), saying, “I ended up ordering everything Amazon and made sure it all went with [my roommate’s] décor but wasn’t too matchy matchy.”

Two years ago, Olivia famously got in a car accident, which, she explained to followers, took place while filming herself on her phone and singing “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” along with Stevie Wonder in her car.

Another celebrity arrested was Felicity Huffman, an Emmy-winning actress best known for her role as Lynette on Desperate Housewives. She’s the wife of actor William H. Macy, who was not charged. Apparently, he knew she was getting help for their daughter—nothing wrong with that—but not exactly what it was, as his wife was handling it.

Also arrested was former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who in the past taught the two Obama daughters (not involved in this) and who got charged with racketeering conspiracy—which I first thought was just referring to his coaching job, but apparently it was not that “racqueteering.”

The mastermind in all this was William “Rick” Singer, head of a college counseling service, who investigators say, assured people that, in some cases, the arrangements were just fine because they were contributing money to what prosecutors call his “purported charity.” According to the investigation, he may have taken in as much as $25 million during his years doing this, and he allegedly paid bribes to experts pretending to be the kids taking their SATs; coaches insisting these kids were high school sports whizzes wanted for water polo, football and track; proctors doctoring tests; and friendly admissions officers. After Singer was caught, he agreed with the FBI to provide conversations and other information to implicate others.

Many have been fired, ruined, arrested and/or had their kids withdraw from school or lose endorsement deals. It’s been said that many students didn’t know their parents were doing this. All the time the parents were telling them they were so special, these elite schools wanted them. Now these kids find out their parents thought they were mediocre, and now might have to go to jail because of it. What a mess.

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