(US college bribes) Charity founder Singer paid off coaches and academies

World | 14 Mar 2019 4:40 pm

The mastermind of a US college admissions scandal, William "Rick” Singer registered Key Worldwide Foundation as a charity in 2013, gaining accredited 501(c)3 status with the federal government.

Much of the US$2.7 million that Singer funneled as grant donations appears to be part of an elaborate charity scheme to mask his reported bribes to university coaches, according to an AP analysis of the foundation’s 990 tax records.

Singer then used the money to pay off his co-conspirators, prosecutors say, including administrators of college entrance exams who rigged the ACT and SAT testing process and university coaches who put students who didn’t play sports on team recruitment lists to improve their chances of getting admitted to schools such as Yale, Stanford and Georgetown.

The charity claimed to give the most grants to the University of Southern California — nine in all that totaled US$550,000.

USC officials would not comment on whether it ever received such donations, but the grant descriptions and amounts allude to the bribes that prosecutors noted, including US$175,000 to "USC Water Polo” and US$100,000 to "USC Soccer Programs.”

Coaches in those programs have been indicted on criminal charges.

In 2013 with Singer as Key Worldwide’s president and chief executive, the charity gave out two grants: US$10,000 to "Georgetown Tennis” and US$100,000 to an organization called "Fullerton Futobol Academy Inc.” with an address belonging to California State University, Fullerton.

Keung Chi-chung, spokesman for Cal State Fullerton, said the university found through state records that the organization listed by Singer is actually tied to USC women’s soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin, who was indicted in the sweeping criminal case this week.

Khosroshahin previously coached at Cal State Fullerton, which does have an affiliation with a different program that bears a similar name to the one Singer listed.

Cal State Fullerton, Georgetown, Yale and New York universities said they never received the donations that the foundation claimed to have dispersed to them.

Aside from grants, Singer also found other ways to pay a coach. Former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst was named a consultant and paid US$1.3 million by the foundation.

Georgetown said it had already fired Ernst for violating admissions rules before he was indicted.

Some of the foundation’s other listed donations were fake, while Singer used some of them personally.

DePaul University confirmed it received three grants from Key Worldwide that Singer made as a parent, which the Chicago school solicited. His son graduated from the university in 2017. The grants were designated for study abroad programs, though Singer listed them in tax records as for the "religious studies department.”

Some grants were listed as going to organizations whose connections couldn’t be verified. They include "Community Donations,” which shared an address with Singer’s foundation, and philanthropic efforts such as the "Friends of Cambodia,” a group that told the Palo Alto Weekly that it didn’t know of and had never received money from Key Worldwide.-AP

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