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Four soccer coaches indicted in college admissions scandal

 

Four collegiate soccer coaches were among 50 people indicted Tuesday on federal charges involving bribery and presenting falsified documents in the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the United States Department of Justice. 

UCLA head coach Jorge Salcedo, former University of Southern California women’s coach Ali Khosroshahin, former USC assistant coach Laura Janke and former Yale women’s coach Rudy Meredith allegedly received bribes from wealthy parents through a third party in exchange for pretending their children were recruited athletes to increase their chances of acceptance — regardless of the applicants’ athletic abilities or intentions to join the soccer program.

Federal prosecutor Andrew Lelling said during a news conference Tuesday the conspiracy involved “first cheating on college entrance exams, meaning the SAT and ACT, and second securing admission to elite colleges by bribing coaches at those schools to accept students under false pretenses. In return for bribes, these coaches agreed to pretend that certain applicant were recruited, competitive athletes, when in fact the applicants were not. As the coaches knew, the students’ athletic credentials had been fabricated.”

The soccer coaches were among nine college coaches across all sports indicted, in addition to three people who organized the scams, two SAT or ACT exam administrators, one exam proctor, one college administrator and 33 parents, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.

“The charges brought forth today are troubling and should be a concern for all of higher education,” the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which regulates college sports, said in a statement. “We are looking into these allegations to determine the extent to which NCAA rules may have been violated.”

Meredith, who resigned in November after 24 years at Yale, was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services wire fraud, according to a statement released by the Department of Justice. The other soccer coaches were charged with racketeering conspiracy.

“Meredith took $400,000 to designate a potential student as a recruit for the team — boosting the student’s admission prospects — despite knowing that the student didn’t play the sport competitively,” NPR wrote in its breakdown of the case. “Last April, Meredith allegedly met with the father of a second prospective student in a hotel room in Boston — a meeting that was secretly recorded by the FBI. In it, Meredith offered to designate the man’s daughter as a soccer recruit in exchange for $450,000, court documents state.”

UCLA announced shortly after the indictments that Salcedo — accused of accepting $100,000 in 2016 and 2018 to help two applicants who did not play competitive soccer get into the school — has been placed on leave while the incident is under review.

Khosroshahin, who was fired in 2013 after seven years coaching the women’s team at USC, and Janke, his assistant at the time who left the school a year later, are accused of accepting payments totaling nearly $350,000. The money was sent to their private soccer club, according to the LA Times.

Salcedo, Khosroshahin and Janke were involved in the scam together in May 2016, according to court documents. Khosroshahin and Janke allegedly sent a fake athlete profile to Salcedo on behalf of a student desiring admission to UCLA.

“The conduct alleged in the filings revealed today is deeply disturbing and in contrast with the expectations we have of our coaches to lead their teams with honesty and integrity,” the school said in a statement. “If the facts alleged are true, they represent a grave departure from the ethical standards we set for ourselves and the people who work here. UCLA is not aware of any current student-athletes who are under suspicion.”

The charges came from a federal grand jury in Boston following an investigation that concluded defendants created documents that changed physical attributes, created fake accolades and changed grades as well as test scores. 

The leader of the scam was William Singer, 59, who accepted $25 million from wealthy parents between 2011 and 2018 to “guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools.” Singer pled guilty Tuesday to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice, according to Lelling.

Singer funneled money through his college-prep company Edge College & Career Network LLC, a for-profit business also known as “The Key” based in California, and the Key WorldWide Foundation, a non-profit corporation he established.

The website for The Key lists a slew or credentials and reasons why parents need Singer and his team during the college application process.

“Having served thousands of students and parents over the past 25+ years, THE KEY and its coaches have an unmatched track record of success in guiding families through matriculation,” it reads. “Master coaches use tried and true techniques and personalized methods to identify your child’s strengths, weaknesses, and passions, creating a plan that unlocks the doors of opportunity.”

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