‘Varsity Blues’ Mastermind Made $28 Million in College Scam
(Bloomberg) -- The William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind of the “Varsity Blues” college admissions fraud, personally made nearly $28 million from the scheme, a forensic accountant for the government testified.
Lauren George laid out the disgraced college consultant’s earnings in detail for the first time on Wednesday as a government witness in the trial of two of his former clients. Singer invested some of his money in the Swansea City Football Club in Wales and the Sharky’s chain of West Coast Mexican restaurants, previously released court records show.
Private equity executive John Wilson, 62, founder of Hyannis Port Capital, and former Wynn Resorts Ltd. executive Gamal Abdelaziz have pleaded not guilty in Boston federal court to paying Singer a combined $1.3 million to arrange bribes to get their children into Harvard, Stanford and the University of Southern California.
George was one of the final witnesses to be called by prosecutors, who rested their case on Wednesday afternoon. The defense case is set to begin on Friday.
During her testimony, George said her review of Singer’s personal and business bank accounts showed that he made a substantial profit from the wealthy parents who were his clients.
“The vast majority came from parents, approximately $26 million by parents,” George said of the funds that flowed into Singer’s personal accounts. The amounts she detailed were slightly higher than the $25 million then-Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling cited when he announced the case in 2019.
Singer spent more than $20 million of his money, some of it in furtherance of the scheme, she said. He paid around $7 million to various university sports foundations as well as school officials, teams and coaches who prosecutors say participated in the fraud. Many of Singer’s clients, including Wilson and Abdelaziz, allegedly paid to have their children falsely designated as athletic recruits.
Another $6.4 million went to personal business investments and expenditures, George said, though she didn’t say what those were.
She said the bank accounts of Singer’s admissions consulting businesses -- Edge College & Career Network & Key -- had deposits of more than $43 million and withdrawals of more than $34 million between January 2013 and February 2019. She didn’t explain whether any of that money flowed into his personal accounts.
Singer agreed to cooperate with the U.S. and secretly recorded parents, later pleading guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges. He forfeited $3.4 million and a number of investments as part of his plea. Eventually, more than 50 people were charged in the case, and 33 parents have pleaded guilty.
Wilson and Abdelaziz are the first to go to trial in the case. Both parents argue the payments they made were intended as legitimate donations but that Singer lied to them about where the money was going or pocketed some of the money. During cross-examination Wednesday, lawyers for both men closely questioned George about funds she traced from their clients. Abdelaziz thought $200,000 of a $300,000 payment he made to Singer was for a USC donation, his lawyer said.
Defense lawyers said they planned to call USC’s former athletic director, Pat Haden, as their first witness.
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