“The way the world works these days is unbelievable, ”an executive at a private equity firm told college prep“ coach ”William“ Rick ”Singer during a phone call. The men were coming up with a plan to Photoshop an image of their son to make it look like he was a soccer kicker to secure his spot at the University of Southern California. “Very funny,” he added.
However, for him and 56 others, it was no laughing matter when the Justice Department announced charges in its biggest college admissions attempt in March 2019, when it was revealed that the defendants were a mix of trainers from the Ivy League, millionaire CEOs, school administrators, powerful lawyers, doctors and actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, all hell broke loose.
People heard the story of wealthy parents willing to shell out $ 500,000 for a “side door” entry to the best colleges to make sure their beloved children could one day afford the same privilege they were being granted. In the span of seven years, it is alleged that Ringleader Singer received more than $ 25 million from the parents.
The immediate reaction was justified fury, but also a forceful understanding of what people had always known and were now being flaunted in plain sight: the rich don’t play by the same rules. Although at least now they were finally being penalized.
New Netflix documentary Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal, released Wednesday and directed by Chris Smith (Fyre: the biggest party that ever happened), dives deep into Singer, his plan, and how it all unfolded.
The film uses interviews with experts, former Singer clients, and re-enactments to tell its story, but the conversations shown between Singer and the parents all come from recorded phone calls that actually took place.
If there is one big takeaway from the scandal, beyond how blatantly corrupt the university system is, it is the indifferent discussions of bribery and deception. A hedge funder takes a sip of iced tea while looking at the grounds of his mansion and wonders if he will get any setbacks. Another makes plans with Singer from Dubai and then invites him to his birthday party at the Palace of Versailles in Paris.
It’s almost easy to forget that the events actually occurred given the brazen nature of the conversations, with the culprits chatting and laughing about their plots over the phone. As one former prosecutor put it, “Historically, white-collar defendants have almost no filter on the phone.”
One of the best known families involved in the scheme was Full house actress Lori Loughlin, her husband Mossimo Giannulli and their daughters Isabella and Olivia Jade. Records released by prosecutors show how Loughlin and Giannulli voluntarily submitted photos of their daughters “paddling” to join the USC rowing team, and even discussed the potential problem with Olivia Jade’s counselor, who highly doubted she was the consummate helmsman that she was. claiming to be on your request. Loughlin called him a “weasel” and a “nosy bastard” and ordered Olivia Jade not to tell him “too much,” the documents state. Giannulli also confronted the counselor, prompting him to reverse an email he sent to USC admissions, stating that Olivia Jade was “truly a helmsman.”
Even the influencer seemed to gossip about herself in the vlogs posted on her popular YouTube channel, where Olivia Jade complained that she hated school and complained that while she knew she had been blessed with a good education, she still wanted to leave school. high school altogether, raising eyebrows from classmates who knew their academic goals didn’t square with entering USC.
Olivia Jade ended up dropping out of college in the wake of the scandal, receiving a barrage of negative press, and losing an endorsement deal with makeup company Sephora. But she seems poised for a comeback, going to Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red table talk in December she listed a story with tears in her eyes, as her mother remained behind bars serving her two-month sentence. But Olivia Jade didn’t seem to apologize at all when she shot a troll on TikTok who asked her if she was enjoying “collage,” writing poorly in college. Sarcastically, she replied, “Thanks for asking. It’s pretty good. In fact, I love collage. I’m working on this damn scrapbook that I have to show you soon. It’s the chef’s kiss, a beautiful job I’ve done. “
While it’s easy to associate the now-notorious scandal with recognizable faces like Olivia Jade, Loughlin, and Huffman, the documentary shifts the spotlight back to Singer, the man who pulls all the strings.
After all, he is the one accused of shoving more than 700 students through his secret “side door” scheme, trying to buy their acceptance letters from USC, UCLA, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and Harvard. It guaranteed entry for eager parents, who shell out more than $ 500,000 on the promise of a closed deal.
But viewers don’t necessarily learn a lot about the enigmatic scammer. Singer was married at one point and has a son. He was a basketball coach in high school before moving on to be a college prep pro, which could be why he always dresses in sportswear. Alumni who worked with him in his early days in Sacramento describe him as intense and unpleasant. Educators who knew him at the time describe him as impulsive but a bit slimy.
Patricia Logan, a former friend and business partner, said she met him on an online dating site. But while their relationship was “serious,” it fell through because Singer flew across the country, slept three hours a night, and sometimes lived in a passenger van so that he could easily travel and sleep while traveling.
But perhaps the most telling anecdote Logan remembered was how they came together by working at the tender age of 12. While she was driving a paper route, Singer paid older children to buy alcohol for her and then sold it to her underage peers at a profit.
Singer’s willingness to do anything to get ahead was evident when he was finally captured by the FBI. He took the opportunity to save himself by working with officials to catch the dozens of people he had worked with.
Two years later, the indictment is still ongoing for several parents, coaches, and academic officials who have pleaded not guilty. Some were quick to accept a guilty plea, like Huffman, who served 14 days in prison. Loughlin was released just after Christmas Day after serving two months behind bars, while her husband is still serving his five-month sentence. They were fined a total of $ 400,000. Singer himself has pleaded guilty and is still awaiting sentencing, but faces 65 years in prison and a $ 1.25 million fine.
“But perhaps the most telling anecdote Logan remembered was how they came together by working at the tender age of 12. While she was driving a paper route, Singer paid older children to buy her alcohol and then sold it to her underage peers at a profit.“
In fact, it was heartwarming to see that those who are generally never held accountable for their actions face harsh consequences, including imprisonment, fines, and firing. Even their children faced repercussions, with some colleges revoking their admissions and expelled them. Still, some students were allowed to continue their education and will soon graduate with prestigious degrees.
But the real victims of all this are the everyday students. Parents who fly cross-country to take their children to rigged ACTs, arrange for a pro to declare a fake learning disability, and order water polo equipment with fake sports photos are juxtaposed with hopeful high school students hoping to meet their results.
They celebrate triumphantly with their families when they are accepted into the school of their dreams, and burst into tears when they are not. They bemoan how they are constantly being told that to be successful in life, they not only need to go to college, but to the best as well. To get there, they have to juggle various AP classes, participate in sports and volunteer efforts, get a letter of recommendation from prestigious alumni, write a moving personal essay, and to top it all, pass the ACT and SAT. After all that, they might Get the attention of admissions and get accepted. If not, they consider attending a perfectly good second-rate college to be a failure.
The documentary makes it clear that rich parents are to blame; They abused their wealth and status to an unfathomable degree to pave the way for their already privileged children to have an even more privileged education, and one day they would bring that same privilege to their children. They did it without much regret, only concerned about crushing their children’s self-esteem.
But he also blames the university system in the United States, where elite universities allow admissions “through the back door.” With ever-decreasing acceptance rates and demands for near-perfect GPAs and test scores, getting into one of the best schools is getting harder every year. Desperate parents look for any way to help their children improve. By legal standards, it is not a crime for parents to shell out millions of dollars in donations to an Ivy League school in hopes of securing a place for their child. However, as a Stanford sailing coach was told, not even a million dollars was enough to move the needle. It led characters like Singer to create a legal vacuum. All he needed was to find members of the upper class, money-hungry trainers, and admissions officials who were willing to help him exploit it.