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College admissions scandal: 12 defendants plead not guilty to racketeering

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March 25 (UPI) — A dozen suspects in a national college bribery and recruitment scheme pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges Monday.

The 12 defendants included Gordon Ernst, Donna Heinel, Laura Janke, Ali Khosroshahin, Mikaela Sanford, Steven Masera, Martin Fox, Igor Dvorskiy, Lisa “Niki” Williams, William Ferguson, Jorge Salcedo and Jovan Vavic, all college coaches, sports administrators and test administrators who each pleaded not guilty during their arraignments in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Rudy Meredith, Yale’s former women’s soccer coach, was charged with taking a $400,000 bribe to accept an applicant who did not play soccer, according to a March 12 indictment that implicated a total of 50 people.

They were charged in a scheme in which prospective students to elite colleges paid for substitutes to take their place in standardized tests, or paid bribes to be designated as student-athletes for sports they didn’t even play.

Among the accused are actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

Meredith resigned and is expected to plead guilty to two counts of wire fraud. He is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Thursday.

Earlier Monday, Yale University announced it has rescinded the admission of a student involved in the scheme.

Yale spokesman Tom Conroy didn’t identify the student, but said the university does not suspect any other students of being involved in the scheme. One other was not accepted.

William “Rick” Singer, owner of the Edge College & Career Network, is the accused mastermind of the scheme, court documents indicate.

A Florida man accused of taking the SAT and ACT college entrance tests on behalf of students has reached a plea agreement. Mark Riddell is scheduled to plead guilty on April 12 to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering, court records show.

The charges could add up to 20 years’ incarceration and a fine of up to $239,000, although federal prosecutors have said they will recommend punishment “at the low end of the scale.”

Besides Yale, the schools implicated in the scandal include the University of Southern California, Georgetown, UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Texas and Wake Forest University. Several college students have also filed a class-action lawsuit, seeking over $5 million in damages and accusing the schools of negligence in guaranteeing the fairness of their admissions processes.

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