A slew of CEOs charged in college entrance cheating scam

Donato Sardella | Getty Images Designer Mossimo Giannulli and actress Lori Loughlin

Two high-profile actresses and a slew of top business executives, including a former head of Pimco and a founder of Hercules Capital, were among 50 people charged in a $25 million cheating scheme to help wealthy students to gain admission to top colleges, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

Suspects allegedly paid bribes to sports coaches and administrators to help get the students admitted to institutions like Yale, Stanford, the University of Southern California, and Georgetown, regardless of athletic or academic abilities.

U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling of Massachusetts said the colleges are not co-conspirators and the schools themselves have not been charged.

The scheme involved cheating on SAT and ACT exams on behalf of students and bribing college administrators and athletic coaches to recruit students.

Among those charged are Douglas Hodge, a former CEO of Pimco; William McGlashan Jr., a senior executive at TPG Capital; Agustin Huneeus, head of the Huneeus vineyard in Napa Valley; and Gordon Caplan, co-chairman of international law firm Willkie Farr.

Also charged were:
— Manuel Henriquez, chairman and CEO of Hercules Capital. Henriquez stepped aside early Wednesday in the wake of the charges;

— Robert Flaxman, founder and CEO of real estate development firm Crown Realty & Development, which says it has a portfoliovalue over nearly $600 million for properties primarily in California, Arizona, Virginia, Idaho and North Carolina;

— Robert Zangrillo, CEO of Dragon Global, an investment company. Dragon Global’s website says its funds have managed investments of more than $1 billion in companies that now have over $500 billion market value, including Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Jet.com and Ulta.

Actresses Felicity Huffman, who starred in ABC’s “Desperate Houswives,” and Lori Loughlin, who appeared in ABC’s “Full House,” were charged, along with Loughlin’s husband Mossimo Giannulli, founder of the American fashion company Mossimo. William Singer, CEO of the Key Worldwide Foundation, was identified by authorities as the ringleader of the scheme.

Others charged include owners of a media company, private equity firm and real estate development firm. (See full list below) The indictment accuses those charged of committing crimes between 2011 and 2019.

Charges include conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

For college exams, those charged in some cases posed “as the actual students, and in others by providing students with answers during the exams or by correcting their answers after they had completed the exams,” according to the criminal complaint. It also said that in many cases, the students were unaware of the cheating schemes.

In some instances, pictures of students playing sports were staged and some pictures even used Photoshop to insert applicants’ faces onto the bodies of real athletes and creating false athlete profiles, investigators said.

Huffman “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000 … to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter. The actress later made arrangements for her younger daughter “before deciding not to do so,” according to court documents. She was also accused of paying someone to proctor her daughter’s SAT and correct wrong answers.

Loughlin and her husband allegedly agreed to “pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew,” the complaint said.

Hodge, the ex-Pimco head, “agreed to use bribery to facilitate the admission of two of his children to USC as purported athletic recruits,” according to the criminal complaint.

The following people were charged, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston:

The following defendants were charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud:

Gregory Abbott, 68, of New York, and his wife, Marcia Abbott 59. He is founder and chairman of International Dispensing Corp., a food and beverage packaging company.

Gamal “Aziz” Abdelaziz, 62, of Las Vegas, former president and executive director of Wynn Macau resort.

Diane Blake, 55, of San Francisco, an executive at retail merchandising firm.

Todd Blake, 53, of San Francisco, an entrepreneur and investor.

Jane Buckingham, 50, of Beverly Hills, Calif., CEO of a boutique marketing company Trendera, which has offices in New York and Los Angeles.

Gordon Caplan, 52, of Greenwich, Conn., co-chairman of Willkie Farr, which says it has 700 lawyers in 10 offices in six countries.

I-Hin “Joey” Chen, 64, of Newport Beach, Calif., operates a provider of warehousing and related services for the shipping industry.

Amy Colburn, 59, of Palo Alto, Calif.

Gregory Colburn, 61, of Palo Alto, Calif.

Robert Flaxman, 62, of Laguna Beach, Calif., founder and CEO of real estate development firm Crown Realty & Development.

Mossimo Giannulli, 55, of Los Angeles, fashion designer.

Elizabeth Henriquez, 56, of Atherton, Calif.

Manuel Henriquez, 55, of Atherton, Calif., founder, chairman and CEO of Hercules Technology Growth Capital.

Douglas Hodge, 61, of Laguna Beach, Calif., former CEO of Pimco investment management company.

Felicity Huffman, 56, of Los Angeles, actress.

Agustin Huneeus Jr., 53, of San Francisco, owner of a family wine vineyard in Napa Valley.

Bruce Isackson, 61, of Hillsborough, Calif., president of a real estate development firm.

Davina Isackson, 55, of Hillsborough, Calif.

Michelle Janavs, 48, of Newport Coast, Calif., former executive of a large food manufacturer.

Elisabeth Kimmel, 54, of Las Vegas, owner and president of a media company.

Marjorie Klapper, 50, of Menlo Park, Calif., co-owner of jewelry business.

Lori Loughlin, 54, of Los Angeles, actress.

Toby MacFarlane, 56, of Del Mar, Calif., former senior executive at a title insurance company.

William McGlashan Jr., 55, of Mill Valley, Calif., senior executive at TPG private equity firm.

Marci Palatella, 63, of Healdsburg, Calif., CEO of a liquor distribution company.

Peter Jan Sartorio, 53, of Menlo Park, Calif., packaged food entrepreneur.

Stephen Semprevivo, 53, of Los Angeles, executive at privately held provider of outsourced sales teams.

Devin Sloane, 53, of Los Angeles, founder and CEO of provider of drinking and wastewater systems.

John Wilson, 59, of Hyannis Port, Mass., founder and CEO of private equity and real estate development firm.

Homayoun Zadeh, 57, of Calabasas, Calif., an associate professor of dentistry.

Robert Zangrillo, 52, of Miami, founder and CEO of Dragon Global.

In addition:

William Rick Singer, 58, of Newport Beach, Calif., owner of the Edge College & Career Network and CEO of the Key Worldwide Foundation, was charged in an information with racketeering conspiracy and money laundering.

Mark Riddell, 36, of Palmetto, Fla., was charged in an information with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, 51, of Madison, Conn., former head women’s soccer coach at Yale University, was charged in an information with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud.

John Vandemoer, 41, of Stanford, Calif., the former sailing coach at Stanford University, was charged in an information with racketeering conspiracy.

David Sidoo, 59, of Vancouver, Canada, was charged in an indictment with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Sidoo was arrested on Friday in San Jose, California, and appeared in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Monday. A date for his initial appearance in federal court in Boston has not been scheduled.

The following people were charged with racketeering conspiracy:

Igor Dvorskiy, 52, of Sherman Oaks, Calif., director of a private elementary and high school in Los Angeles and a test administrator for the College Board and ACT.

Gordon Ernst, 52, of Chevy Chase, Md., former head coach of men and women’s tennis at Georgetown University.

William Ferguson, 48, of Winston-Salem, N.C., former women’s volleyball coach at Wake Forest University.

Martin Fox, 62, of Houston, president of a private tennis academy in Houston.

Donna Heinel, 57, of Long Beach, Calif., senior associate athletic director at the University of Southern California.

Laura Janke, 36, of North Hollywood, Calif., former assistant coach of women’s soccer at the University of Southern California.

Ali Khoroshahin, 49, of Fountain Valley, Calif., former head coach of women’s soccer at the University of Southern California.

Steven Masera, 69, of Folsom, Calif., accountant and financial officer for the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation.

Jorge Salcedo, 46, of Los Angeles, former head coach of men’s soccer at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Mikaela Sanford, 32, of Folsom, Calif., employee of the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation.

Jovan Vavic, 57, of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., former water polo coach at the University of Southern California.

Niki Williams, 44, of Houston, assistant teacher at a Houston high school and test administrator for the College Board and ACT.

The following defendant was charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and mail fraud:

Michael Center, 54, of Austin, Texas, head coach of men’s tennis at the University of Texas at Austin.

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