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College Admissions Scandal

September 19, 2019 Criminal Law and Procedure

Felicity Huffman has been sentenced to 14 days in federal prison by Judge Indira Talwani, a U.S. District Judge, after pleading guilty to mail fraud. The sentence comes after Huffman plead guilty to paying Rick Singer $15,000 to take her daughter’s college entrance exam. Huffman is one of many parents accused of paying Singer to earn their child a seat at a respected college.

Other parents, besides paying another to take the ACT or SAT, paid Singer to falsify a student’s athletic high school career in order to make them athletic college recruits. Singer allegedly then bribed college coaches to gain the student’s acceptance. Judge Talwani stated if she did not sentence Huffman to prison regular citizens would constantly question how the A-list celebrity beat the system. Therefore, Huffman is an example to all that no one is above the law.

Other Defendants

Rudolph Meredith, the women’s soccer coach at Yale University, has plead guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges. She reportedly accepted a bribe from Singer allowing Sherry Guo acceptance into the university even though she did not play soccer. The student’s parents reportedly paid 1.2 million dollars to have their daughter accepted to the ivy league school. Guo is no longer enrolled at Yale.

Devin Sloane is accused of paying Singer $250,000 to have his son admitted to the University of Southern California (USC). Singer reportedly falsified pictures of Sloane’s son as a High School water polo player so he would be accepted as a water polo recruit.

Stephen Semprevivo reportedly paid Singer 400,00 dollars in an attempt to have his son admitted to Georgetown University. Singer reportedly falsified documents so that Semprevivo’s son would be accepted into the university as a tennis player.

Lori Laughlin and her husband, Massimo Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 to have their daughters, Isabella Giannulli and Olivia Jade Giannulli, admitted to USC. They reportedly paid Singer to falsely document that their two daughters participated in the High School crew team in order to gain them acceptance on USC’s crew team. Their defense team stands by the couple’s innocence, stating they believed they were donating money to a college sports program. They claim they were not aware that Singer was bribing coaches in order to gain their daughter’s acceptance to USC. They both denied plea deals and then received harsher fraud and money laundering charges from prosecutors. They pair faces up to 40 years in prison.

Both Sloane and Semprevivo face up to a year in prison. They face Judge Talwani this up coming week.

The Punishment

While prosecutors on the case suggested Huffman get 30 days in prison, Talwani was more lenient on the defendant, sentencing her to 14 days in prison. In addition, she is responsible for 30,000 dollars in fines, 250 hours of community service and supervised release for one year.

Prosecutors are pushing for harsher sentences for other parties involved. So far there have been 52 individuals charged in the college admission scandal. 15 have plead guilty, like Huffman, and 19 maintain their innocence and are awaiting trial. It is expected that the parents who plead guilty will receive lighter sentences compared to those who are threatening trial.

Judge Talwani will be following the fraud statue guidelines. Under these guidelines all defendants are subject to six months of prison or less. She denied the request for the defendants to be held to the federal commercial bribery statute. Under these guidelines the defendants would be subject to harsher prison sentences if they paid more money to Singer.

ArborYpsi Law Takeaways

It seems Judge Talwani is approaching the college admission scandal in a fair manner. Huffman’s sentence almost looks like a compromise between the prosecutors and defense team. It will be interesting to see how Judge Talwani sentences the remaining parties. While Laughlin and Giannulli defense is creative, it is hard to tell if it will stand up at trial. It will be hard for jurors to believe that they did not know that they were cheating the system. However, there may always be reasonable doubt and there is a chance for an acquittal.

Call us

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com.

Sam Bernstein is a criminal defense attorney in Washtenaw County. He regularly defends and represents criminal defense clients in the Metro-Detroit area.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave. Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

If you have been charged with a felony contact ArborYpsi Law.

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The College Admissions Scandal Case

 In the past, it was perceived that money can buy happiness or at least an undeserving child admission into a prestigious school. Now money paid can get a person a felony charge and prison time. It will be interesting to see how Judge Tahari proceeds with sentencing other defendants. The public opinion is that privileged students shouldn’t be rewarded while hard working students are denied access to a higher education. At least the defendants can put their hundreds of thousands or even million dollars to better use – an experienced criminal defense team.