William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind of the sprawling college admissions scam aptly known as Operation Varsity Blues, was sentenced Wednesday to 3.5 years in federal prison, the longest sentence in a case that has rattled America’s higher education system.
According to CNN, the 62-year-old Florida resident was sentenced to 42 months in prison on Wednesday for his role in the years-long scandal, which exposed inequalities within the U.S. higher education system. The sentencing came nearly four years after Singer pleaded guilty to numerous charges in connection to the scheme, including racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.
Prosecutors say Singer used illegal and fraudulent techniques to help students gain admissions to top-tier universities. He allegedly facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and bribed athletic coaches to recruit students who often had little to no experience in sports. Investigators say many of those bribes were funneled through Singer’s purported nonprofit, which allowed families to disguise the payments as charitable donations.
Singer paid more than $7 million in bribes to coaches and administrators at schools like Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and the University of Southern California. The investigation led to the convictions of more than 50 people, including prominent CEOs, sports coaches, test administrators, as well as actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. The women, who were among Singer’s wealthy clients, were sentenced to two months and 14 days in jail, respectively. Singer’s sentence is said to be the longest issued in the case.
“It was a scheme that was breathtaking in its scale and audacity,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank said in court. “It has literally become the stuff of books and made-for-TV movies.”
Prosecutors sought a six-year prison sentence for Singer, but acknowledged that his cooperation with investigators helped authorities build a case against other defendants.
“I lost my ethical values and have so much regret,” Singer reportedly said in a Boston court. “To be frank, I’m ashamed of myself.”
On top of the 3.5-year prison time, Singer was also sentenced to three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, as well as forfeit nearly $9 million in assets and money to the government. He is expected to report to prison on Feb. 27.