California Mom Tried New College Scam: Helping Son Graduate

(Bloomberg) -- A California woman will admit to paying $9,000 to have a surrogate take online classes for her son so he could graduate from Georgetown University -- a new angle in the college admissions scandal, with the focus on cheating to help an already enrolled student.

Karen Littlefair, of Newport Beach, will say she conspired with the scam’s admitted mastermind, Rick Singer, to have an employee of his college counseling business take the classes for her son and submit them to the school, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling in Massachusetts said Monday.

The employee “completed four classes for Littlefair’s son at Georgetown and elsewhere, and in exchange Littlefair paid Singer’s company approximately $9,000,” Lelling said in a statement.

Littlefair will plead guilty next month to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, Lelling said. Prosecutors will argue that Littlefair should face as long as four months in prison when she is sentenced.

Until now, the parents, coaches and others charged in the scandal have been accused of scheming to get a child into college. The new scam involves helping a student graduate. It’s the first time that prosecutors have made such a claim in a case that has led to charges against more than 50 people.

“My client has taken the early opportunity to take responsibility for her conduct,” said Littlefair’s lawyer, Kenneth Julian.

Littlefair is married to Andrew Littlefair, the president and chief executive officer of Clean Energy Fuels Corp., which he co-founded with T. Boone Pickens in 1997, according to the company’s website.

“The U.S. attorney’s charges against Karen Littlefair don’t involve Clean Energy, so we’re declining comment,” said Raleigh Gerber, a spokeswoman for the Newport Beach-based company.

Littlefair’s son graduated from Georgetown in May 2018, using the phony credits he earned in the scam, prosecutors said.

Georgetown said in a statement that it “learned of potential misconduct relating to one graduated student taking online courses” after the first charges in the scandal were announced in March. The Washington D.C.-based school declined to say whether it would revoke the degree awarded to Littlefair’s son.

“When the university learns of a potential serious violation of the honor system after a student has graduated, the Honor Council will investigate and adjudicate the case and may recommend sanctions up to and including the revocation of the student’s degree,” spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak said in the statement.

Georgetown previously expelled two students after their parents were caught up in the scandal. No students or colleges have been charged.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.