July 24, 2019

Bailing Out Aunt Becky: Operation Varsity Blues

posted on: Thursday March 21, 2019

by Grace Whitman ’22 A&E Staff

Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among 50 people charged in a $25 million college entrance exam cheating scheme. 

The alleged scheme was designed to get less qualified students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, by using proctors to cheat on entrance exams like the SAT and the ACT.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CPL. BRIAN A. STEVENS

An FBI investigation code-named Operation Varsity Blues uncovered a network of wealthy parents who paid thousands of dollars to a California resident named William Rick Singer. 

Singer has been in the college preparation business since 1994, and in 2007 he founded The Edge College & Career Network, LLC, also known as “The Key,“ a college preparation organization. His previous work in the college preparation business allowed him to form relationships with coaches at elite schools like Yale University, The University of Southern California (USC), Georgetown University, and many others. 

Actress Lori Loughlin, best known for her role as Rebecca Donaldson Katsopolis, or Aunt Becky, on Full House, was released on a $1 million bond after appearing in federal court in Los Angeles. Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer and USC alum Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying $500,000 to get their two daughters admitted to USC as recruits to the school’s rowing team. Giannulli allegedly emailed pictures of his daughters on indoor rowing machines to create a fake athletic recruiting profile. 

Olivia Jade, one of Loughlin’s daughters, is a social media influ=encer with more than 1.9 million subscribers on YouTube. 

On August 14, 2018, she posted a video on her YouTube Channel of her saying, “I don’t know how much of school I am going to attend…I do want the experience of game days, partying. I don’t really care about school.” 

Additionally, Olivia Jade was a partner with Sephora Collection as she created an exclusive makeup palette. In a statement on March 14, Sephora told NBC News, “After careful review of recent developments, we have made the decision to end the Sephora Collection partnership with Olivia Jade, effective immediately.“ 

Huffman posted bail at $250,000.  She is accused of paying $15,000 disguised as a charitable donation so her daughter’s SAT score could be rigged. 

But not everyone who worked with Mr. Singer’s organization has been accused of committing a crime. Professional athletes like Phil Mickelson and Joe Montana admitted they used Singer’s company legally. Mickelson composed a tweet saying, “Our family, along with thousands of others, used Rick Singer’s company to guide us through the college admission process. We are shocked by the revelations of these events. Obviously, we were not part of this fraud, our kids would disown us if we ever tried to interfere.” Mickelson’s daughter was the valedictorian and president of her high school class and now attends Brown University. Thousands of other hard-working and deserving students used Singer’s organization to legally get into elite schools, but those kids allowed Singer to become more well-known and  form connections, ultimately leading to the massive scheme. 

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