Mum files $670b suit in college bribery scandal

LOS ANGELES • A former teacher has filed a US$500 billion (S$670 billion) class action lawsuit against two Hollywood actresses and dozens of other wealthy parents accused of paying hefty sums to bribe college coaches or doctor exam scores to secure their children's admission to elite universities.

Ms Jennifer Kay Toy, who previously taught in the Oakland Unified School District in California, alleges in the lawsuit filed in San Francisco County Superior Court that the actions of those implicated in the scheme prevented her son Joshua Toy from being admitted to several colleges ensnared in the scandal.

She wrote in the filing that her son worked hard and graduated from high school with a 4.2 GPA (grade point average; 4.0 would be a perfect score of all top A grades) but was rejected by some colleges.

"I'm now outraged and hurt because I feel that my son, my only child, was denied access to a college not because he failed to work and study hard enough but because wealthy individuals felt that it was okay to lie, cheat, steal and bribe their children's way into a good college."

The suit names actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman as well as Loughlin's husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, along with dozens of other people charged in the criminal case.

The lawsuit also estimates that "due to the length and breadth of the cheating scam", more than one million people have been affected.

The filing follows the revelation that celebrities, corporate executives, investment bankers, business owners, top-tier lawyers and even a bestselling author of parenting books allegedly participated in an audacious scheme to get their children into elite US universities in the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted. The federal authorities last Tuesday announced 50 people had been charged.

Separately, two Stanford University students last Wednesday filed a federal class action suit against Stanford, University of Southern California (USC), University of California, Los Angeles, University of San Diego, University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University, Yale University and Georgetown University.

The students allege that the rigged system denied them a fair chance to matriculate at the elite institutions and could tarnish their degrees from Stanford.

The federal criminal probe alleges that wealthy parents sought out Newport Beach businessman William Singer with one overriding goal: to get their children into the best colleges. Singer, who owns an admissions company called Edge College & Career Network, pleaded guilty to masterminding the scheme last Tuesday.

In phone conversations with parents secretly recorded by agents, Singer boasted that in just two years, he had helped more than 850 students of the wealthy and powerful to lie their way into colleges.

Last Friday, the first of the 33 parents charged in the scam was in court. David Sidoo, the temporarily ousted CEO of Advantage Lithium, pleaded not guilty to charges that he paid US$200,000 to Singer, to arrange for people to take the SAT admissions test for his two sons.

During a hearing, Sidoo said little except to acknowledge his rights and to say "not guilty" when asked how he would plead.

Singer and the parents charged could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

DPA, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 17, 2019, with the headline 'Mum files $670b suit in college bribery scandal'. Print Edition | Subscribe