A procession of wealthy American parents — from a Napa Valley vineyard owner to a Hot Pockets heiress — are due in court Friday on charges they paid bribes to get their children into top colleges.
More than a dozen parents, including CEOs, investment executives, real estate developers and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, are slated to appear in Boston federal court on charges related to the nationwide college admissions cheating scheme dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.
They’re among 33 prominent parents charged in what authorities have called the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted. Authorities say the parents paid an admission consultant to rig their children’s test scores and bribe coaches at sought-after schools.
The most familiar names among the accused parents are actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, but they’re not scheduled to appear in court until next week.
Among those appearing Friday is Michelle Janavs, 48, a former executive at her family’s food manufacturing company, Chef America, which made Hot Pockets before being bought out by Nestle for $2.6 billion US in 2002.
She is accused of paying at least $100,000 to help her two daughters cheat on their college admissions exam and get into the University of Southern California (USC) as beach volleyball recruits.
William McGlashan, 58, a former executive for the private equity firm TPG, is accused of paying bribes to get his son into USC as a recruit for the college’s storied football team, even though his son didn’t play football and his high school didn’t field a team.
And Austine Huneeus, 53, whose family owns vineyards in California’s Napa Valley and in Oregon, is accused of paying at least $50,000 to have SAT administrators correct his daughter’s college entrance exam and to have USC officials designate her as a water polo recruit to improve her chances of getting into the college.
The other parents slated to appear Friday include prominent Miami developer Robert Zangrillo, former Wynn Resorts executive Gamal Abdelaziz and Marci Palatella, who founded bourbon maker Preservation Distillery in Kentucky.
On Thursday, former Yale University women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith became the third person to plead guilty in the case. Rick Singer, the admissions consultant at the centre of the scheme, has also pleaded guilty.