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A Dad Becomes The First Parent To Say He Will Plead Guilty In The Massive College Admissions Scandal

About a dozen of the 33 parents allegedly involved in the largest college bribe scheme in US history appeared in federal court Wednesday.

Posted on April 3, 2019, at 7:15 p.m. ET

Paul Marotta / Getty Images

Lori Loughlin after appearing in federal court to answer charges stemming from the college admissions scandal.

An organic packaged food entrepreneur on Wednesday became the first parent to plead guilty to charges related to the biggest college admissions cheating scandal to ever be prosecuted.

Peter Jan Sartorio of Menlo Park, California, is one of 33 parents charged with paying a life coach to game admissions systems to get their children into elite universities via bribes to athletic directors, coaches, and other school officials, as well as entrance exam proctors who falsified records, achievements, and test scores.

Federal officials allege Sartorio paid $15,000 so that a person administering the ACT college entrance exam would correct his daughter’s answers. In a court filing Wednesday, lawyers for the father said he intends to plead guilty to based on information prosecutors said they will file before April 30, though it’s unclear what exactly he has agreed to plea to.

According to court documents, two other parents are also talking with prosecutors about potential plea deals.

Jane Buckingham, who bills herself as a millennial trends guru, allegedly paid William “Rick” Singer $35,000 of an agreed $50,000 to boost her son’s ACT scores.

In a complaint, federal officials also allege Devin Sloane worked with USC’s top athletic director to create a fake water polo profile for his son, even buying the gear on Amazon and hiring a graphic designer to photoshop the images. The founder of a water treatment company, he then allegedly sent the school $50,000 and then funneled another $200,000 to Singer through a bogus charity, the Key Worldwide Foundation.

“Mr. Sloane and the government are currently in discussions that are calculated to resolve this matter without a trial and reasonably expect that will occur,” his attorneys said in a court filing.

About a dozen other parents appeared in federal court in Boston on Wednesday, including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, who have become the faces of the scandal.

Loughlin, famous for her role on Full House and a mainstay on the Hallmark Channel, along with her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying Singer $500,000 to get their girls into USC, despite the fact that one of their daughters, a YouTuber and influencer named Olivia Jade, frequently posted about not really wanting to go there.

Emerson College students Vivi Bonomie & Mackenzie Thomas brought signs targeting Lori Loughlin to court. "We're obsessed with this case... It's ridiculous celebrities are getting away with this," Thomas told me. Said she and Bonomie worked "really hard" to get where they are.

Like most of the 33 parents involved in the scheme, Loughlin and Huffman are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud. It’s unknown if the actors will also take a plea deal. According to Bloomberg, they could also face additional charges, such as money laundering.

Before their hearing, crowds of onlookers and local college students gathered outside the US District Court in Seaport to catch a glimpse of the actors, holding signs either supporting “Aunt Becky” or asking if she would pay their tuition.

Loughlin stopped to sign a few autographs.


Felicity Huffman’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.