October 3, 2019 / 10:00 AM / 15 days ago

Corporate lawyer faces sentencing in U.S. college admissions scandal

BOSTON, Oct 3 (Reuters) - The former co-chairman of the New York corporate law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher will be sentenced on Thursday for his role in what prosecutors say is the largest college admissions scam uncovered in the United States.

Federal prosecutors in Boston are seeking eight months in prison for Gordon Caplan after he pleaded guilty to paying $75,000 to have a corrupt test proctor secretly correct his daughter’s answers on the ACT college entrance exam.

He is among 52 people charged with participating in a vast scheme in which wealthy parents conspired with a California college admissions consultant to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure the admission of their children to top schools.

William “Rick” Singer, the consultant, pleaded guilty in March to charges that he facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and helped bribe sports coaches at universities to present his clients’ children as fake athletic recruits.

The 35 parents charged in the “Operation Varsity Blues” investigation include corporate executives and celebrities, including “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman and “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin.

Prosecutors said Caplan in 2018 arranged through Singer to have an associate pose as an ACT proctor for his daughter’s exam to correct her answers at a test center Singer controlled through bribery.

The proctor was Mark Riddell, a former counselor at a Florida private school who pleaded guilty in April to secretly taking SAT and ACT college entrance exams in place of Singer’s clients’ children or correcting their answers.

In a November 2018 call recorded between Singer and Caplan, the attorney asked Singer if “anybody ever gotten into an issue with this.”

“Keep in mind I’m a lawyer,” he told Singer, according to court papers. “I’m sort of rules oriented.”

Caplan, in admitting wrongdoing, has stressed that his daughter, now a high school senior, knew nothing of his actions. Prosecutors have said some parents took steps to prevent their children from realizing they were benefiting from fraud.

His lawyers in a court filing last week argued he deserves no more than the 14 days in prison that actor Huffman received on Sept. 13 after pleading guilty to engaging in a similar college exam cheating scheme. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; editing by Grant McCool)

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