Ex-Treasury Staffer’s Mom Gets Jail for Cheating to Graduate Him
(Bloomberg) -- The mother of a former U.S. Treasury Department staffer was sentenced to five weeks in prison for paying a surrogate to take college classes for her son, the latest punishment in a national scandal that has claimed famous parents from TV star Lori Loughlin to former Pimco chief Douglas Hodge.
Karen Littlefair, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy, admitted to engaging in the scheme so her son could complete his degree from Georgetown University while working at Treasury.
“By involving your son, you taught him it’s OK to cheat, it’s OK to take shortcuts,” U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs told Littlefair, 57, at a hearing Wednesday. The judge also ordered her to pay a fine of $209,000 and perform 300 hours of community service involving “direct hands-on service to underprivileged people or families.”
“I want you to be in the weeds with people who have true need and getting your arms around what it’s like to navigate this world without all the resources and support your family has,” Burroughs said.
Littlefair’s prosecution was unusual for the college admissions case, in which most of the parents were accused of scheming to get a child into college.
Given her son’s “demanding position” involving frequent international travel, “I took on the task of trying to find a way to help him finish his degree,” Littlefair said before her sentence was pronounced. She said she had “acted out of love” for him but “ended up hurting my son greatly.” He lost his Treasury job and his Georgetown degree in the wake of the scandal, her lawyer told the court.
None of the students or colleges in the sprawling case have been charged.
The defense sought leniency based on stress they said Littlefair was under from her father’s death and the sudden death of her sister’s husband, as well as from caring for her mother and 94-year-old mother-in-law. Her plea agreement called for four months behind bars but gave her the latitude to argue for a lesser sentence. She sought probation.
In court documents, prosecutors described Littlefair as brazenly complaining when her co-conspirator got a low grade.
“Kind of thought there would have been a discount on that one,” she wrote, according to a filing by the government. “The grade was a C and the experience was a nightmare.”
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