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FBI Wiretaps Show Importance of Fake Charity and Extended Testing Time in College Admissions Scam

March 17, 2019

William Rick Singer operated The Key Worldwide (KWF), a fraudulent nonprofit, as a front for a massive college admissions scandal for the rich.

william rick singer

William Rick Singer

However, Singer could not state the real purpose of his nonprofit in its declared mission, so he manipulated the language as follows:

The Key Worldwide Foundation endeavors to provide education that would normally be unattainable to underprivileged students, not only attainable but realistic. With programs that are designed to assist young people in everyday situations, and educational situations, we hope to open new avenues of educational access to students that would normally have no access to these programs. Our contributions to major athletic university programs, may help to provide placement to students that may not have access under normal channels.

Compare Singer’s words above with those intercepted in a June 2018, court-approved, FBI wiretap of Singer selling his college admissions wares to a wealthy parent, New York attorney Gordon Caplan, who is now part of this 204-page affidavit in support of criminal complaint.

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Gordon Caplan

(Note that Singer says he has perpetrated his scheme a whopping 761 times before):

Okay, so, who we are– what we do is we help the wealthiest families in the U.S. get their kids into school …. Every year there are– is a group of families, especially where I am right now in the Bay Area, Palo Alto, I just flew in. That they want guarantees, they want this thing done. They don’t want to be messing around with this thing. And so they want in at certain schools. So I did 761 what I would call, “side doors.” There is a front door which means you get in on your own. The back door is through institutional advancement, which is ten times as much money. And I’ve created this side door in. Because the back door, when you go through institutional advancement, as you know, everybody’s got a friend of a friend, who knows somebody who knows somebody but there’s no guarantee, they’re just gonna give you a second look. My families want a guarantee. So, if you said to me ‘here’s our grades, here’s our scores, here’s our ability, and we want to go to X school’ and you give me one or two schools, and then I’ll go after those schools and try to get a guarantee done. So that, by the time, the summer of her (Caplan’s daughter’s) senior year, before her senior year, hopefully we can have this thing done, so that in the fall, before December 15th, you already knows she’s in. Done. And you make a financial commitment. It depends on what school you want, may determine how much that actually is. But that’s kind of how the the side and back door work.

And that is where a fake charity is useful, as noted in the affidavit:

Once parents agreed to participate in the scheme, CW-1 (Singer) sent bribes to coaches and, in one case, a university administrator, typically out of a KWF bank account. In some instances, he directed the money to the recipients directly, for their personal use, including one recipient who received bribe payments by mail at his residence in the District of Massachusetts. In other instances, he directed the money to designated accounts at the Universities that were controlled by the recipients, including in some instances via mailings from the District of Massachusetts. In still other instances, CW-1’s clients made the payments directly to the designated accounts at the Universities, as directed by the bribe recipients.

Below are excerpts from conversations between Caplan and Singer. Having the student granted extended time is critical to Singer’s scheme because it allows the privacy necessary to operate the scam. Notice also the goal of keeping the student unaware of the fraud:

Singer:

So here’s the first thing we need to do. And I think I mentioned this to your wife. We need to get your daughter tested for a learning difference. Here’s why. If she gets tested for a learning difference, and let’s say it’s my person that does it, or whoever you want to do it, I need that person to get her 100% extended time over multiple days. So what that means is, we’ll have to show that there’s some discrepancies in her learning, which there’s gotta be anyways. And if she gets 100%, Gordon, then, I own two schools. I can have her test at one of my schools, and I can guarantee her a score. If it’s ACT, I can guarantee her a score in the, in the 30s. And if it’s the SAT, I can guarantee her a score in the 1400s. Now, all of a sudden, her test score does not become an issue with all the colleges. Because she’s strong enough. Then, if we clean up her transcript, then her ability, with her athletic ability and her testing and her getting better at school, it’s much easier to get her into school, because you’re not fighting huge obstacles at the types of schools you’re talking about. Now, if we do that, there’s a financial consideration that you have to pay to the school to get it done, because this is absolutely unheard of, to make this happen. I can make scores happen, and nobody on the planet can get scores to happen. She won’t even know that it happened. It will happen as though, she will think that she’s really super smart, and she got lucky on a test, and you got a score now. There’s lots of ways to do this. I can do anything and everything, if you guys are amenable to doing it.

Caplan:

Okay, so let me let me understand the two components. What is the, what is the, the number?

Singer:

So the number– the number–

Caplan:

–At Cornell for instance.

Singer:

Well, hold on a second. The number on the testing is $75,000. Okay? It’s $75,000 to get any test scores you would like to get on the SAT or ACT. Okay, that’s–

Caplan:

Explain to me how that works.

Singer:

I just explained it to you. You get extended time, you gotta get the extended time first. Then you’re going to fly to L.A. And you’re going to be going on a fake recruiting visit. You’ll visit some schools, while you’re out here in L.A. And then on a Saturday, which is the national test day if it’s ACT or SAT, she’s going to sit down and take the test. I will have a proctor in the room, that’s why, when you have 100% extended time, you have– you get to take it at a– you don’t take it with everybody else, you get to take it over multiple days. And you get to take it at a– you can take it at your school or another school. Okay? And then this kid, ’cause she’s taking online classes, you have to go somewhere anyway. So you come to my school, take the test on a Saturday. She’ll be in the room for six, six and a half hours taking this test. My proctor would then answer her questions, and by the end of the day, she would leave, and my proctor would make sure she would get a score that would be equivalent to the number that we need to get.

Caplan:

Okay.

Singer:

That’s how simple it is. She doesn’t know. Nobody knows what happens. It happened, she feels great about herself. She got a test a score, and now you’re actually capable for help getting into a school. Because the test score’s no longer an issue. Does that make sense?

In a follow-up conversation, Singer clarified the importance of students being granted extended time in order to have access to multiple test days. Caplan constantly sought reassurance about the con, both in this excerpt and throughout the numerous recorded conversations he had with Singer:

Singer:

Schools don’t know. Schools don’t know. That’s why you have to get 100% time or you have to get 50% multiple days. The only, so the way it works is, if you get 50% time you have to take it at a national test center okay? If you get 100% time you have to find a school that’ll actually give you the test. So, if she were at a traditional school, she would be taking it at that school. What I do is, I always tell the family, “Oh, you got a bar mitzvah out of town that weekend, so you found a school to take it at,” and they go take it at our school and then they come home and they get a score. So the key is the testing, and we have to get the testing so that we show a discrepancy. It sounds like she has a discrepancy, but I need the discrepancies to be significant enough so that we don’t have to appeal and we can go forward. The fact that she’s in an online school, that may be helpful for us as well.

Singer also has the gall to file appeals with testing companies if extended time is not granted– so the stupider, the better, on initial eval (as though no student will catch on that this is fraudulent):

Caplan:

And do you ever have a problem getting the 100% time?

Singer:

Oh yeah, there’s times when we have to appeal because, you know, for whatever reason. You have to understand that College Board and ACT both outsource their decisions to a committee, ’cause they’re tired of being sued. For, you know, so they do the outsourcing. So, sometimes you have to re-appeal so that psychologist that’ll do the testing, will actually write up an appeal. So we’ll do that, and I also need to tell [your daughter] when she gets tested, to be as, to be stupid, not to be as smart as she is. The goal is to be slow, to be not as bright, all that, so we show discrepancies. And she knows that she’s getting all this extra time, everywhere that she is right now. At the Academy kids are getting extra time all the time.

Caplan:

You mean the Greenwich Academy?

Singer:

Everywhere.

Caplan:

Oh, oh you mean at her tennis academy. I see. Yeah. Okay.

Singer:

Yeah, everywhere around the country. What happened is, all the wealthy families that figured out that if I get my kid tested and they get extended time, they can do better on the test. So most of these kids don’t even have issues, but they’re getting time. The playing field is not fair.

Caplan:

No, it’s not. I mean this is, to be honest, it feels a little weird. But.

Singer:

I know it does. I know it does. But when she gets the score and we have choices, you’re gonna be saying, okay, I’ll take all my kids, we’re gonna do the same thing. (laughing)

Caplan:

Yeah, I will.

KWF, the nonprofit providing education for the privileged.

The playing field is not fair.

It turns out that ACT twice denied extended time to Caplan’s daughter but the FBI asked ACT to grant the request, and ACT did so.

Caplan had no idea. However, by this time, Singer was apparently cooperating with the FBI because the affidavit notes that the conversation was “consentually recorded”:

Caplan:

So [my daughter] did get the extension. Totally unexpected. We got it last night.

Singer:

Really?

Caplan:

Yeah.

Singer:

That’s cool. Cool.

Caplan:

Yeah. And you were right. I mean, it was like third time was the charm. So everybody was telling us there’s no way, and then all of a sudden it comes in through [her school]. So, again, and– keep in mind I am a lawyer. So I’m sort of rules oriented. Doing this with you, no way– she’s taking the test. It’s her taking the test, right? There’s no way–

Singer:

So–

Caplan:

— any trouble comes out of this, nothing like that?

After more discussion, Caplan decided he wanted in– and he sent his first payment to KWF. From the affidavit, as written by the FBI agent. (Note that Singer was cooperating with federal agents):

On or about November 13, 2018, CAPLAN wired $25,000 to a bank account in Boston, Massachusetts in the name of the KWF charity that, unbeknownst to CAPLAN, [Singer] had opened at the direction of law enforcement agents. [Singer] had previously advised CAPLAN that the $25,000 would be a “deposit” to reserve the services of [Mark Riddell], who [Singer] said was his “best test-taker” and could “nail a score– he’s that good.”

Singer later explains to Caplan what will happen on the day of the test:

Okay. And you’ll– you’ll meet [Mark Riddell] and [test administrator] Igor [Divorskiy], and you’ll– you’ll go your own way. [Your daughter] will go in and take the test. She’ll be the only one, taking it in the room with– with [Mark Riddell]. She will take the test. She will walk out the door. At the end of it she’ll say to you, “Dad, it was so hard,”or “I’m so tired,” or whatever the typical reaction out of the kid. Then [Riddell] will finish the exam. He will then take the exam and look at her– what she’s done, and then ensure that whatever score we decide that we want to get– he has it down to a– unbelievable that he can do it. Get that number based on the four sections. She’ll do the computer writing of the essay herself. That’ll be all her. He can help her if she wants some guidance [inaudible] approach. But other than that, that will be all her writing. And she will sign it and she’ll walk out of there and she will never know that this actually occurred. You will get your results back in, you know, anywhere from, 11– depends on what day it goes back in. But anywhere from 11 to 20 days. And she’ll get her results and she’ll say, “Oh, my God, Dad, I got a 33!”

From the FBI agent, as recorded in the affidavit:

On or about December 8, 2018, law enforcement agents observed Dvorskiy arrive
at the West Hollywood Test Center at approximately 7:05 a.m. CAPLAN and his daughter arrived approximately ten minutes later, and Dvorskiy, CAPLAN and CAPLAN’s daughter went inside the building. At approximately 7:21 a.m., CW-2 entered the West Hollywood Test Center. At approximately 7:31 a.m., Dvorskiy and CAPLAN walked out of the building and had a brief conversation. At approximately 11:52 a.m., CAPLAN’s daughter left the West Hollywood Test Center, met CAPLAN, and drove away.

On or about December 20, 2018, CAPLAN wired an additional $50,000 into the KWF bank account in Boston.

Two key (note the pun) issues for Singer’s fraud: extended testing time and a nonprofit money-funnel.

Also, be sure to send invoices for the fraud, as well as thank-you letters, both of which appear in the section of the affidavit referring to the complaint against actress Felicity Huffman:

Singer (to Huffman):

Okay, and then, so then are we– so again the last time we did this. Just so I can make sure the financial part is all squared away that then we’ll– we will send you an invoice for $15,000 and we’ll– and that’ll be all taken care of.

The term “invoice” appears 38 times in the 204-page affidavit.

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Felicity Huffman

Invoices leave a trail, but it is also important to remind those clients to pay.

It just so happens that individuals happen to often make donations to KWF for the amount of those invoices for fraudulent services rendered. (It seems Singer also created fake invoices for services rendered by his for-profit, Edge College and Career Consulting.)

Singer’s partner in crime (literally), Steven Masera, sent Huffman a thank-you letter for their *donation* “for disadvantaged youth”:

On or about February 27, 2018, HUFFMAN and her spouse made a purported contribution of $15,000 to KWF. On or about March 21, 2018, Masera sent them a letter thanking them for the purported donation and falsely stating that it would “allow us to move forward with our plans to provide educational and self enrichment programs to disadvantaged youth.” The letter falsely stated that “no goods or services were exchanged” for the $15,000.

Even though Huffman decided not to use Singer to directly alter her younger daughter’s score, as the affidavit notes, she did consider it, and both of Huffman’s daughters were granted extended time for the SAT as part of a scheme– one that still allowed the younger daughter an undue advantage over other SAT test takers.

No more need for Huffman to donate to that nonprofit for the “underprivileged.”

It was there when she and scores of others of the wealthy, entitled set needed it for exploitation’s sake, as was the manipulation of extended testing time–

–all caught on tape.

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

 

5 Comments
  1. IRA SHOR permalink

    The greater the wealth, the greater the opportunities to scam. SAT has been bogus from the start–in 1977, College Board Report declared high school transcript a more accurate predictor of success in the first year of college than the SAT, which should have ended right then and there, but too many insiders and cronies got rich off it, and it plays too big a role in the maintenance of white supremacy and the rule of the 1%.

  2. LisaM permalink

    One has to wonder how much College Board and ACT really know about this scheme? I’m sure they both have knowingly participated in the scheme especially since it has been stated that both outsource to a committee since they are tired of being sued….sued for what? They know they run a scam non-profit and they hold families hostage at $90 per test. It’s sick! I don’t know how people like this can look themselves in the mirror everyday and feel good about what they are doing. We have poverty NOT because we can’t afford to feed/clothe/educate the poor, but because we can’t satisfy the rich.

  3. Linda permalink

    It’s been widely reported that Lori Loughlin’s daughter was on the yacht of a USC trustee, with a friend, the daughter of the Trustee, at the time that media broke the story about the FBI arrests.

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