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The Man Who Ran The College Admissions Scam Used His Charity To Donate $150,000 To His Own Son's University

William "Rick" Singer used his nonprofit organization — which prosecutors called a "purported charity" to bribe college officials — to donate $150,000 in cash grants to DePaul University where his son was a student.

Last updated on March 13, 2019, at 5:15 p.m. ET

Posted on March 13, 2019, at 2:40 p.m. ET

Steven Senne / AP

William "Rick" Singer

William "Rick" Singer, the man who ran the nationwide college admissions scam by funneling money through his "purported charity" to bribe college officials, also used his charity's money to donate sizable amounts of money to his son's university.

Singer, 58, of Newport Beach, California, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to federal charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.

Over seven years, Singer is estimated to have taken $25 million from wealthy parents — including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin — to get their children into top schools, recording much of it as tax-deductible donations to his charity — Key Worldwide Foundation.

Many of the charity's grants were a cover for bribes to at least 10 athletic officials and coaches at renowned universities including Yale, Stanford, University of Texas at Austin, and University of Southern California, officials said. These athletic officials were also indicted as part of the scam.

The Key Worldwide Foundation donated a total of $150,000 over three years to DePaul University in Chicago where Singer's son graduated from in 2017, the university confirmed to BuzzFeed News on Wednesday.

"Not unlike many parents, Mr. Singer made several contributions to DePaul," Carol Hughes, a spokesperson for DePaul, told BuzzFeed News in a statement.

"These gifts were made by the Key Worldwide Foundation in 2014, 2015 and 2016 while his son was a student. All were in support of helping students study abroad," the statement said.

In 2016, Key Worldwide Foundation donated $50,000 in cash grants to DePaul, according to tax forms filed by the foundation. In 2015 and 2014, the university's Religious Studies Department received a total of $100,000 from the foundation, according to the tax forms.

"To date, our review has not revealed any reason to believe these donations are connected to recent indictments," Hughes said in the statement.

The indictment did not name any DePaul University officials.

DePaul's website for scholarship opportunities lists the "Singer Research Fund 2017: “Reforming Religions: Jews, Christians and Evolving Modernity."

According to the website, the Singer Research Fund was open to undergraduate religious studies majors who did not graduate in 2017. The fund was used to sponsor a 2017 excursion to Germany to study religious reform in Judaism and Christianity.

"DePaul, through the generosity of the Singer Research Fund, will pay for round-trip airfare and ground transportation in Europe, housing, most meals, entrance fees, theater tickets and guide/speaker’s honoraria," the website said.

Hughes did not confirm if Singer or his charity were the donors for the Singer Research Fund.

Singer's charity also made several donations to other colleges and schools that were not implicated in the scam, including New York University Athletics, University of Miami, Baruch College at the City University of New York, Chapman University, and Loyola High School, according to tax forms.

Chapman University, which received a total of $325,000 cash grants from Key Worldwide Foundation, told BuzzFeed News in a statement that "irregularities in the gifts from the Key Worldwide Foundation should they exist, were and are totally unknown to us."

The university said it is cooperating with the Department of Justice in its investigation.

NYU's athletics department received donations totaling $338,379 in 2016, 2015, and 2014, according to the tax forms.

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, NYU spokesperson John Beckman said that the university is aware of the donations to the athletics department listed on Key Foundation's tax forms.

"We have only just begun to review the origins and purposes of these donations," Beckman said.

"The unscrupulous behavior in college admissions revealed by the US Attorney in Boston is clearly deeply troubling," the statement said.

"NYU Athletics is not empowered to prescribe that certain students be admitted, nor do coaches have direct contact with admissions officers about particular candidates whom they may be interested in having for their teams," Beckman said in the statement.

The University of Miami also received donations totaling $100,000 in 2016 and 2015, according to Key Worldwide Foundation's tax forms. A spokesperson for the university was unable to provide a comment at the time of publishing.

Loyola High School, a Jesuit preparatory school for young men in Los Angeles, also received donations from Singer's foundation worth $77,870 in 2016 and 2015. A spokesperson for the school said their records were in storage and would respond once she got them.

Baruch College at CUNY — which received a $50,000 cash grant in 2015 — did not respond to a request for comment.

Singer's charity also made donations worth a total of $33,329 over three years to a Sacramento address listed as "Community Donations" on the tax forms. The address for "Community Donations" belongs to Singer's own life coaching and college counseling company called the Key.

The Key Worldwide Foundation / Via thekeyworldwide.com

The Key Worldwide Foundation's website lists several partner organizations, including the Houston Hoops, a youth basketball organization in Texas. The foundation does not detail on its website what the partnership is exactly.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Houston Hoops founder Hal Pastner denied any association with the Key Foundation.

"I've never heard of then until yesterday," Pastner said. "I've never heard of these people."

According to the foundation's 2015 tax records, the organization gave $5,508 to the city of Houston.

The Houston Hoops are not listed as a donation recipient in any of the foundation's tax records.

The CEO of another organization listed as a partner, Bizworld, which teaches students entrepreneurial skills, told BuzzFeed News she does not know Singer or the Key Worldwide Foundation.

"We've never had a partnership with him. He basically pulled our logo from our website and pasted it on his," Thais Rezende told BuzzFeed News, adding that Bizworld's lawyers have already demanded their name be removed from the Key Worldwide Foundation's website.

"It's unfortunate he's pulling our nonprofit into this mess with him," Rezende said. "We're working on making a difference and just to have our name linked to this scandal is really sad."

A spokesperson for the USTA, the nation's tennis association, also told BuzzFeed News the organization has no relationship with the Key Worldwide Foundation.

The spokesperson said that USTA does not have an agreement with the foundation nor has it given it any funding.

Singer's lawyer Donald Heller did not respond to a request for comment.


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