A California charity is under federal investigation after being linked to the massive college admissions scandal that made headlines early Tuesday. Authorities say The Key Worldwide Foundation was used to launder money from wealthy parents who sought to pay their children’s way into prestigious universities.
The nonprofit is founded and run by William “Rick” Singer, the alleged ringleader of the scheme. Prosecutors say Singer instructed wealthy parents to send him “donation” money through the charity, which the parents could then deduct on their taxes. In return, Singer promised to bribe college administrators and coaches into accepting their children into the university.
“Your generosity will allow us to move forward with our plans to provide educational and self-enrichment programs to disadvantaged youth,” read a letter sent to parents after they donated to the The Key Worldwide Foundation.
As The Los Angeles Times reports, while the nonprofit was supposed to help poor kids obtain an education, the majority of its grants were instead given to elite universities. Colleges involved include Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, the University of Southern California, Wake Forest University, and others.
“For every student admitted through this fraud, a legitimate, talented student was not accepted,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.
In total, Singer claims to have helped 761 people buy their way into college. And while the majority of Americans would view that as cheating, Singer doesn’t see it that way. Instead, he refers to it as “side doors” to admission.
Prosecutors are charging Singer with racketeering, money laundering, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S.
A total of 50 people have been charged in the bribery scheme thus far, including Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Huffman is best known for her role in the hit TV show “Desperate Housewives,” while Loughlin is known for playing Aunt Becky on “Full House.”