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Who Is William Rick Singer? New Details About The Mastermind Behind The College Cheating Scam Ring

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Who Is William Rick Singer? New Details About The Mastermind Behind The College Cheating Scam Ring

He's taking full responsibility for the scheme.

From a young age, most of us are taught that hard work and dedication are the keys to a successful life and career. If you give something your all, work diligently, and believe in yourself, you can accomplish anything.

But the recent college admissions bribery scandal proves what many of us have known for quite some time: the game is rigged against people who aren’t wealthy, and that includes getting into good schools. It shows that kids don’t need to get into college based on merit anymore; all they need to do is have money and wealthy families.

This giant scandal refers to “an alleged scheme to influence admissions decisions at American universities” by faking test scores, bribing college officials, and using other forms of fraud.

So far, 50 people have been charged, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. No students have been charged yet, and many allegedly knew nothing about the scheme.

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According to the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, "This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth, combined with fraud. There can be no separate college admission for the wealthy, and I will add there will not be a separate criminal justice system either. For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.”

But the mastermind behind the scheme isn’t the parents of these wealthy children; instead, it’s a college counselor and author of self-help books for getting into college. Who is William Rick Singer?

On Tuesday, Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy to defraud the United States charges. He’s told U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel, “I am absolutely responsible for it. I put everything in place. I put all the people in place and made the payments directly.”

Aside from being the ring leader in this giant scandal, what else do we know about Singer?

1. He didn’t always have a career in college admissions consulting.

Singer graduated from Trinity University and has a master’s degree in counseling, as well as a doctorate in business and organizational management. He coached high school sports and moved to college admissions counseling in 1992, creating Future Stars College & Career Counseling. After he sold that company, he became a senior executive at a mortgage company.

He eventually created the counseling service, CollegeSource, and started Edge College & Career Network, which later became known as The Key in 2007. He was also executive vice president of West Corporation, and the CEO of one of India’s largest call center companies.

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2. He founded The Key.

According to the website, the company is a “Private Life Coaching and College Counseling Company” and the clientele “is all referral-based; consequently, the quality of the service provided to many of the world’s most renowned families and individuals has provided an incredible foundation for The Key to grow its offerings worldwide.”

The Key is the company through which Singer allegedly helped parents get their students better ACT/SAT scores, helping them cheat, and bribing college coaches and athletic officials. And he’s been profiting from education for decades. According to the company website, he “helped more than 90,000 adults and also guided high school and college students seeking undergraduate or graduate degrees.”

According to court documents, Singer had two organizations: one for-profit, and one nonprofit. The for-profit company provided test prep and college counseling, while the nonprofit intended to “provide guidance, encouragement and opportunity to disadvantaged students around the world.” The FBI alleges that Singer used the nonprofit organization as a front for the “side door” schemes, effectively “funneling payments from parents to fund bribes to test administrators and coaches.”

3. His primary focus was on “the wealthiest families.”

From 2011 to 2019, Singer was paid approximately $25 million. According to prosecutors, Singer told one of his clients that he was only interested in helping the “most privileged.” He said, "OK, so, who we are... what we do is we help the wealthiest families in the US get their kids into school."

4. He wrote books about getting into school.

He self-published two books alongside author Rebekah Hendershot called Getting In Personal Brands: A Personal Brand Is Essential to Gaining Admission to the College of Your Choice, and Getting In: Gaining Admission To Your College of Choice. The books were full of tips and hacks for the college admissions process, including “developing a strong personal brand,” getting higher SAT scores, and writing a good college essay.

5. Students liked him.

On of Singer’s long-time friends, Ron McKenna, said Singer was good at his job and the kids he worked with really seemed to like him. McKenna and Singer met while working at Sacramento State where they both worked as assistants in a basketball program.

“The kids liked him because he was always straightforward with them. He was really good with students... I was a counselor here in town and I had him go and do presentations for parents. He was good at it. Good at giving advice,” McKenna said.

6. He’s facing a life sentence.

After pleading guilty to four charges, he was released on a $500,000 bond and will return to court on June 19th for sentencing. He could spend up to 65 years in prison, including a $1.25 million fine and three years of supervised release.

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Samantha Maffucci is an editor for YourTango who focuses on writing trending news and entertainment pieces. In her free time, you can find her obsessing about cats, wine, and all things Vanderpump Rules.