LOS ANGELES — The university most embroiled in the elaborate, nationwide admissions scandal announced late Wednesday it will deny all student applicants linked to the scam and has begun reviewing current students and graduates who may be connected.
Since the shocking revelation of the largest college admissions cheating scandal in US history was announced Tuesday, the University of Southern California has taken swift action against those involved in the bribery scheme, firing its most decorated head coach, a top admissions officer, and placing one of its most prominent dentistry professors on leave.
While the cheating case has involved elite schools across the US, including Yale, Stanford, and Georgetown, the private university in south Los Angeles has been at the heart of the scandal.
Prosecutors say William "Rick" Singer, the 58-year-old life coach and alleged ringleader of the operation, enlisted USC's associate athletic director, Donna Heinel, to help fabricate the athletic achievements of prospective teenager from 2014 to 2018, raking in more than $1.3 million in bribe payments. Two former women’s soccer coaches were also allegedly involved. As a result, more than two dozen students were accepted, many under the guise of being student athletes.
A USC spokesperson said that money will be funneled into scholarships for underprivileged students.
"We are still working to identify any other donations connected to the scheme," the spokesperson said.
The university fired Heinel, along with its legendary water polo team coach on Tuesday. The next day, the university said that it had placed one of its top department chairs on leave. According to the indictment, Homayoun Zadeh, a renowned specialist and associate professor of dentistry at USC, allegedly paid refinanced his Calabasas home to pay Singer $100,000 to help his daughter get into the school.
The university admitted her as a star lacrosse player, even though she had never played the sport, federal prosecutors said.
So far, USC said that the school has identified six students with ties to Singer's operation in the "current admissions cycle." Those students will be denied admission to the university.
About half of the 32 parents who allegedly paid the California life coach to fix their children's applications wanted their kids to get into USC.
Actor Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were charged with paying $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters into USC as recruits for the crew team, despite the fact that the children weren't playing the sport.
William McGlashan, a founding partner of investment firm TPG Growth, worked with Singer and his consulting company, known as "the Key," to create a fake football profile for his son to help him get into the school, despite the fact that the teen's high school did not have a football team.
“I’m gonna make him a kicker/punter and they’re gonna walk him through with football, and I’ll get a picture and figure out how to Photoshop,” Singer told the father, according to the indictment.
The prominent Silicon Valley businessman, who has curated a reputation as a leader in social responsibility, allegedly paid the life coach $50,000 to boost his son's ACT score and also donated $250,000 to USC to help ensure his son's acceptance. His son, like many of the children involved, had no idea, authorities said.
“Pretty funny,” McGlashan told Singer during discussions about the plan. “The way the world works these days is unbelievable.”
A top resort executive and and investment firm CEO are also among the crew of parents who allegedly paid Singer to get their kids into USC through the "side door."
Now, USC officials say they're going to conduct a thorough, "case-by-case review of current students and graduates that may be connected to the scheme alleged by the government."
"We will make informed, appropriate decisions once those reviews have been completed," the USC spokesperson said. "Some of these individuals may have been minors at the time of their application process."
The sprawling admissions cheating operation, which involved actors, tech moguls, college admissions officials, coaches, and top executives, started in 2011 when universities began receiving applications from potential students whose parents had potentially manipulated their applications.
USC said Wednesday that it will deny admission any applicants "who are connected to the scheme."
Other universities have issued similar statements. The University of California, Los Angeles, told BuzzFeed News that it was reviewing allegations "as they relate to admissions decisions."
"If UCLA discovers that any prospective, admitted or enrolled student has misrepresented any aspect of his/her application, or that information about the applicant has been withheld, UCLA may take a number of disciplinary actions, up to and including cancellation of admission," said Tod Tamberg, a university spokesperson.
When asked if Georgetown identified any applicants who were involved with Singer's organization, and if so, if they will denying the students admission, a spokesperson said, "Georgetown refrains from commenting on individuals students in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). We are reviewing the details of the indictment and will be taking appropriate action."
The massive scandal is not the only one to recently roil USC. It's currently in the throes of several investigations after a longtime student health gynecologist abused hundreds of students and that the dean of its medical school heavily used drugs.