What were the crimes committed in the Varsity Blues case?

I became curious about what exactly were the crimes committed by the people who had got their children into the colleges of their choice. I looked up the actual indictment and the people are charged with racketeering conspiracy under Title 18, section 1962(d) of the US penal code. Title 18 is the main criminal code of the federal government in the US and covers all manner of crimes.

It is a crime to defraud someone else, including the use of bribery. In this case, among the institutions being defrauded included the services that run the SAT and ACT whose results are used in gauging students’ academic levels and the universities to which fraudulent documents were submitted. Another fraud that they engaged in was donating to the so-called charity that was used for this scheme and falsely asserting that “no goods or services were exchanged”. That opens them up to tax fraud and money laundering. When people conspire to do so, they can also be charged with a racketeering conspiracy. It becomes a federal offense when the fraud crosses state lines.

If you want to read all the gory details with all the names of the people and what each person did (including transcripts of wiretap conversations), you can read an affidavit submitted by a federal agent who investigated the crimes where she says that the offenses included “conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349; and conspiracy to commit money laundering, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h).”

Not all the people involved were wealthy. Some had to mortgage their homes and put the ‘donations’ on their credit cards or arrange payment plans. Some of their children did not know that their parents were cheating on their behalf and were so pleased with their better-than-expected test scores (that were obtained by changing their answers) that they spoke to the ‘coach’ about taking the test again to improve on the scores. As the ‘coach’ who cheated on their behalf boasted to one parent: “I mean, I’m sure I did 30 of them at different, you know, dates because there’s different dates and they’re all families like yours, and they’re all kids that wouldn’t have perform[ed] as well, and then they did really well, and it was like, the kids thought, and it was so funny ’cause the kids will call me and say, “Maybe should do that again. I did pretty well and if I took it again, I’ll do better even.” Right? And they just have no idea that they didn’t even get the score that they thought they got.”

The whole affair is a sordid mess.

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