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13 Affluent Parents Plead Guilty in College Admissions Scam, Face Jail Time

April 8, 2019

Thirteen parents and one coach involved in a massive college admissions scam pled guilty federal court in Massachusetts on April 08, 2019.

From the April 08, 2019, Los Angeles Times:

Felicity Huffman and a dozen other wealthy parents swept up in the far-reaching college admissions scandal have agreed to plead guilty after being charged in the scheme, according to court records.

The actress and 12 other parents, including Los Angeles marketing guru Jane Buckingham, will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Bay Area real estate developer Bruce Isackson will plead guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS. His wife, Davina Isackson, will plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit fraud. …

Michael Center, the former men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin, will also plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Center is accused of accepting $60,000 in cash and a $40,000 donation to his tennis program to ensure a student was admitted as a recruited athlete. …

Manny Medrano, a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor, said that based on 2019 federal sentencing guidelines, Huffman would face from four to 10 months in prison as part of her plea. …

In a statement Monday, Huffman acknowledged her guilty plea.

I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions. I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community,” she said. …

Those who have signed plea agreements face recommended sentences of a few months to a year and a half in prison, prosecutors said.

When it came to charges, Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, apparently lucked out. As People magazine notes, Macy was recorded discussing a cheating scheme for his younger daughter, not his older daughter. Huffman and Macy chose not to follow through with the plan for the younger daughter. Huffman was charged for cheating associated with the couple’s older daughter.

And so, what of motive? What entices the affluent over  and over to risk wrecking their lives over college admissions?

On April 04, 2019, Caitlin Flanagan published an insightful article in the Atlantic, entitled, “They Had It Coming.” The summary statement following the article title notes a startling truth:

The parents indicted in the college-admissions scandal were responding to a changing America, with rage at being robbed of what they believed was rightfully theirs.

According to Flanagan, Felicity Huffman and other well-to-do, substantially-moneyed, well-positioned parents involved in this scam are reaching to keep their privilege in a world that is increasingly requiring them to share opportunity with those outside of their circle of entitlement:

Ever since the scandal became public, two opinions have been widely expressed. The first is that the schemes it revealed are not much different from the long-standing admissions preference for big donors, and the second is that these admissions gained on fraudulent grounds have harmed underprivileged students. These aren’t quite right. As off-putting as most of us find the role that big-ticket fundraising plays in elite-college admissions, those monies go toward programs and facilities that will benefit a wide number of students—new dormitories, new libraries, enriched financial-aid funds are often the result of rich parents being tapped for gifts at admissions time. But the Singer scheme benefits no one at all except the individual students, and the people their parents paid off.

The argument that the scheme hurt disadvantaged applicants—or even just non-rich applicants who needed financial aid to attend these stratospherically expensive colleges—isn’t right either. Elite colleges pay deep attention to the issue of enrollment management; the more elite the institution, the more likely it is to be racially and socioeconomically diverse. This is in part because attaining this kind of diversity has become a foundational goal of most admissions offices, and also because the elite colleges have the money to make it happen. In 2017, Harvard announced with great fanfare that it had enrolled its first class in which white students were in the minority. …

… Anyone can understand a parent’s disappointment if he had thought for 17 years that his child would go to Yale one day, only to learn that it’s not in the cards. But what accounted for the intensity of emotion these parents expressed, their sense of a profound loss, of rage at being robbed of what they believed was rightfully theirs? They were experiencing the same response to a changing America that ultimately brought Donald Trump to office: white displacement and a revised social contract. The collapse of manufacturing jobs has been to poor whites what the elite college-admissions crunch has been to wealthy ones: a smaller and smaller slice of pie for people who were used to having the fattest piece of all. ….

These parents—many of them avowed Trump haters—are furious that what once belonged to them has been taken away, and they are driven mad with the need to reclaim it for their children. The changed admissions landscape at the elite colleges is the aspect of American life that doesn’t feel right to them; it’s the lost thing, the arcadia that disappeared so slowly they didn’t even realize it was happening until it was gone.

Flanagan’s piece is both powerful and insightful and is informed by her time as a teacher and counselor at a top-of-the-line Los Angeles high school. It is well worth a full, thoughtful read.

Below is Felicity Huffman’s full statement of apology that accompanied her April 08, 2019, guilty plea, as reported in the Los Angeles Times:

I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done. I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions.

I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.

My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her. This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty.

Let this be a lesson to the ueber-wealthy parents tempted to conspire their children into “good” schools and to the coaches and others willing to exploit their entitled idiocy.


Felicity Huffman at federal court in Boston, April 08, 2019


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  1. Lisa Buchman permalink

    I’d like to hear the College Board’s stance on the cheating. Crickets…..I guess they are keeping a low profile on this one since there is likely a stream of money directly to the top.


    And thus, you have the entire “ed-reform” scheme…nothing more than these same entitled elites, using their money, big corporate money, and politicos, to secure jobs, quality of life, more desirable living areas, and security for themselves and their children, at a time when jobs were rapidly disappearing for liberal arts college grads, which includes, of course, the children of these same wealthy elites.

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