Feds say area man spent $1.2 million on bribes to get his kids into elite colleges

John B. Wilson

Felicity Huffman is getting the most attention, but an admissions-bribery ring detailed in a federal indictment released today has some direct Boston-area ties as well.

Among those named in the indictment, charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud: John B. Wilson, 59 (in photo), with homes both in Lynnfield and on the Cape, who allegedly paid $1.2 million in bribes to get his children accepted to USC, Stanford and Harvard, based in part on athletic skills they didn't really have.

Also named and charged with the same crime: Manuel Henriquez, an Atherton, CA financial advisor who allegedly used his connections at Northeastern University - from which he graduated and formerly served on the University Corporation, one of the school's governing bodies - to help get somebody else's kid into school as a way of reducing his bribery payment to get his daughters into elite schools.

According to the indictment, Wilson started out by paying $220,000 in bribe money to secure his son a seat at USC, in part by paying off the school water-polo coach to name his son as a recruit for the team, which would rank him higher in admissions-office decisions. The only problem, as Wilson was allegedly caught confessing in e-mail: His son wasn't all that good at water polo.

The indictment quotes e-mail between Wilson and ringleader William “Rick” Singer, 58, of Newport Beach, CA, identified as Cooperating Witness-1, because at some point, Singer began cooperating with the feds:

On or about March 26, 2013, WILSON e-mailed CW-1 and asked, "Would the other kids know [my son] was a bench warmer side door person?" In a follow-up e-mail the next day, WILSON added: "So it sounds like even if [my son] practices all the time etc it will be known that he is a bench warming candidate? Obviously his skill level may be below the other freshmen. In your view will he be so weak as to be a clear misfit at practice etc?"

CW-1 advised WILSON that his son would not actually be expected to play water polo for USC. On or about March 27, 2013, in response to an e-mail from WILSON about his son's commitment to the team "if he did the side door at USC," CW-1 replied: "Travel is only if he is playing so No- the commitment is to be on the roster not attend all practices but he will have to attend drug tests and other mandatory functions for 1 year then walk away/frankly after the 1st semester he can move on."

In an e-mail to CW-1 on or about August 24, 2013, WILSON inquired about the timing of his payments to Vavic to secure his son's admission as a purported water polo recruit. WILSON wrote: "What does Jovan need by [S]ept 20? Do u have what we need? Do I make the first payment to u then?" CW-1 responded, in substance, that he had everything he needed to send to Vavic "so he can add [your son] to his recruit list and present him to admissions in October." WILSON replied: "Great - let me know when u have verified u have it all completed and into Jovan. Also when and where to wire money."xxx In an e-mail exchange on or about October 3, 2013, Vavic advised CW-1 that he needed an athletic profile for WILSON's son and that it "needs to be a good resume." CW-1 subsequently provided Vavic with a falsified profile that included fabricated swimming times and awards.

In an e-mail exchange on or about January 21, 2014, Vavic asked CW-1 to confirm that WILSON's son was still interested in attending USC. CW-1 confirmed that WILSON's son was still interested and that the "family is ready to help." Vavic replied that he would present WILSON's son to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions with his "top walkons."

On or about February 26, 2014, Vavic e-mailed a USC athletics administrator that WILSON's son "would be the fastest player on our team, he swims 50 y in 20 [seconds], my fastest players are around 22 [seconds], this kid can fly." CW-1 has advised that this purported performance figure, which was derived from the falsified athletic profile CW-1 provided Vavic, was fabricated.

WILSON's son was granted admission to USC as water polo recruit on or about February 28, 2014. USC mailed him a formal offer letter on or about March 26, 2014.

On or about March 1, 2014 - one day after the admissions decision - WILSON emailed CW-1 under the subject line "USC fees." WILSON wrote: Thanks again for making this happen! Pls give me the invoice. What are the options for the payment? Can we make it for consulting or whatever from the [K]ey [the alleged charity set up by the man the feds say was the ringleader of the whole scandal] so that I can pay it from the corporate account?

Wilson, the indictment continues, then paid even more - $500,000 - to get one daughter into Stanford and one into Harvard, this time by portraying them as seasoned sailors or crew rowers, even though neither were.

Based on the promise from the informant that the ruse would work just as well for his daughters, Wilson wired the $500,000 to an account set up in Massachusetts - by Singer, at the direction of federal agents - last October. The indictment then quotes a phone conversation the two had, in which the informant said:

So I had a conversation with the Stanford sailing coach and, so I just gave the Stanford sailing coach [$]160,000 for his program and while we were having that conversation I said, "Hey, I'm hoping that this 160 that I'm helping you with helps secure a spot for next year. Can I be guaranteed a spot for next year?” And he said, "Yes."

Wilson then paid another $500,000 to get his other daughter into Harvard. But at this point, Singer was just making stuff up - he claimed to have spoken to "the senior women’s administrator at Harvard," who would guarantee her a seat in exchange for a bribe.

The indictment does not say if the daughters actually got into Stanford and Harvard.

Henriquez and his wife are both charged with trying to get their two daughters into prestige schools. According to the indictment, though, Henriquez was able to waive some of the bribery payments by working his Northeastern connections to get somebody else's kid into Northeastern's College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

According to the indictment, Henriquez agreed to use his influence at Northeastern to win the student admission. Unfortunately for him, the person who was acting as bagman for the bribes was actually working for the feds as an informant in their investigation.

On or about October 26, 2016, in an e-mail to a senior development officer at Northeastern University, MANUEL HENRIQUEZ described the Northeastern applicant as an "excellent candidate for the College of Social Sciences and Humanities." MANUEL HENRIQUEZ then e-mailed CW-1 [Singer]: "Just confirmed with the university, have [the applicant] file [early decision] normal channels to get into the systems and make sure his application is complete. Then the folks I connected will flag it."

On or about November 1, 2016, MANUEL HENRIQUEZ met with the applicant in Atherton, California, and thereafter relayed details about the meeting to his contact at Northeastern. MANUEL HENRIQUEZ then followed up with CW-1: "I liked him very much, and just informed the school according[ly]. It is now in their hands, and they understand he is looking for [early decision], and I will reinforce early next week."

MANUEL HENRIQUEZ repeatedly followed up with Northeastern officials in Boston about the applicant's candidacy. The student was ultimately admitted to Northeastern. The applicant's parents paid CW-1 $250,000 after he was admitted.

Innocent, etc.




Quoth Uncle Jesse: Have mercy

["Full House" theme song voice]

Whatever happened to admissions equity?

The essay, the test scores, the myth of meritocracy?

Anyway, for some reason I like that the FBI agent who wrote the indictment affadavit put her college degrees in the "Agent Background" portion. Get it, sis!


Lori Laughlin's lawyer called the prosecutor

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Lori Laughlin's lawyer called the prosecutor for the evidence against her. She said, "We'd like to see what cards your holding."

The prosecutor replied: "Full House."

I will let meself out.



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So the sequel to Full(er) House will be "Big House"?

The irony about Lori Loughlin is that the twins she had on Full House are grown up in Fuller House. Dumber than bricks is the impression I get from them. Irony is, nice to know her TV kids couldn't get into college either.

Cheating is bad, yes, but...

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...why didn’t this wealthy moron spend this kind of money actually educating his children so that they were competitive applicants?


Probably tried that

But there is only so much you can do when said children may lack interest, aptitude, or suicidal competitiveness.

My husband used to tutor kids taking the SAT and other achievements. Some of the parents were truly horrible people, hell bent on turning their biotrophy into their private ego trophy regardless of what their kids wanted or were able to do. Purely abusive.

This sort of thing simply isn't about the kids.


Rain maker

It is also manipulating the buyer into believing your bribe is the best bribe. Straight donations and tutoring can bring a similar result.

Reminds me of a song...

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...by Ian Hunter, formerly of Mot the Hoople:

"His old man spent a fortune just to get him in
But baby boy growed up just as stupid as him..."
-Ian Hunter
"Just Another Night"


I'm paying your way to college

Because you came through with a Mott The Hoople reference (!!!).

[to the tune of "All The Young Dudes"]

The admissions officer man is crazy
Saying I need this SAT test

Oh, man, I need an Ivy League degree
When I got rich paaaaarents



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All the young whooooores
Forge their test scoooores



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Not sure whats sexist about calling people who trade favors for money whores. Sounds like the commonly accepted definition. Who's insulted by this? Actual hookers?

SPOILER ALERT: "Whore" is a slur that demeans women

Not sure whats sexist about calling people who trade favors for money whores.

Whoo! A lot of obtuse sexism and misogyny to unpack there!

First, Springfield's own Merriam-Webster has several definitions of the word "favor":

English Language Learners Definition of favor (Entry 1 of 2)
: a kind or helpful act that you do for someone
: approval, support, or popularity
: preference for one person, group, etc., over another
favor verb
English Language Learners Definition of favor (Entry 2 of 2)
: to prefer (someone) especially in an unfair way : to show that you like or approve of (someone) more than others
: to approve of or support (something)
: to regard (someone or something) as most likely to succeed or win

Someone who "trades favors for money" is a CAPITALIST (arguably a worse slur, amirite?)

I internet searched "is whore a sexist term" and here are some things that came up. Just something to thin about:

Why You Should Stop Saying ‘Slut’ and What to Say Instead


“Corporate Democratic Whores” Is a Sexist Slur That Demeans Women


And demeaning "actual hookers" is wrong, too because...SPOILER ALERT: sex workers are people deserving of respect and owed basic human rights, too. Rather than bribe admissions officials at colleges...some sex workers show way moral fortitude than these "Operation Varsity Blues" ding-dongs and opt to support themselves and their education through their earnings.

How sad. Mott The Hoople is such a legendary band and you can't even think of something clever to add respective to a parody of one of their most well-known songs. "Weird" Al would be appalled!

I appreciate the attempt to

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I appreciate the attempt to educate me, but I'm not understanding. Could you unpack some more word vomit into a post and let me know what else you think? I'll be back next week to check your work.

Imagine hating women so much

that you resort to demeaning them to try and seem clever on the internet.

Mott the Hoople, man...it was a Mott the Hoople reference...and you still managed to fuck it up. MOTT. THE. HOOPLE.

I said what I said...aaaaand you can stay mad about it.

I don't speak Russian

at least not nyet...

...but the band Mott the Hoople got its name from a Willard Manus novel from the 1960s:

MOTT THE HOOPLE is an underground classic 60's comic novel. It is written in a freewheeling bawdy style. It's hero, Norman Mott, is a Rabelaisian figure who refuses to wear anybody's label, insists on being his own man, and, through a series of comic misadventures, discovers just who that man is. Some people will know Mott the Hoople from the British rock band that took its name from the book.

(Link source:

No, I am not in the band Mott the Hoople

But I am honored that you mistook me for one of my favorite bands (that was formed when my parents were children, haha).

I've never been to Moscow. Are goofy puns about British proto-punk bands a significant part of Russian culture?

And wow: to be characterized by a stranger on the internet as a "Russian bot"...I am flattered that you are assigning me so much power...but I didn't influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election or anything like that.

Alexa, play "We Appreciate Power" by Grimes.

I appreciate you as a fan, Steevil

but your replies to me present an interesting question:

if you think I'm a bot (Russian or otherwise)...then why keep replying to me?

You need my attention that badly, bro? Haha

Or maybe you're projecting your Al-Pacino-in-the-film-Simone / Joaquin-Phoenix-in-the-film-Her fantasies on me? If you love AI so much then why won't you marry it?

Oh, wait: this is probably because my "matroyshska doll style Dunkin Donuts" joke I made.

Well you are going to flip out when I mention that Vladimir Nabokov is one of my favorite writers. And I recently watched "Russian Doll" on Netflix! OH SNAP!

No kidding

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Makes the $15k+ rent-an-experience summer trips some parents buy their kids so they can write something in their admissions essays look perfectly tame and wholesome, doesn't it?


Let's just get this out the way

1.) David Bowie wrote the song "All The Young Dudes."

2.) Bowie was purported to have a fascination (admiration?) for fascism.

3.) Blah blah blah Roman defends Bowie's alleged fixation with fascism because free speech, compulsive need to defend Nazis, et. al, etc.

There goes your Nazi fix, little guy

Your inexplicable, constant "defense" of Nazis on UHub impedes any possible lane for discussion and dialogue, for me at least. You're just "that Nazi guy from UHub" as far as I'm concerned.

Anyway, "All The Way From Memphis" would make a great musical, if it hasn't been adapted into one already.

Are you going to bill me?

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I don't feel right living inside your head rent free. Or something like that.

I've explained myself lots of times. If it's still inexplicable, then ain't nobody can help you.


and people question why I see corruption everywhere?

Money buys everything in America. Presidencies, college admission, building permits, slots on traveling teams, Orchid massages, NBA championships. It is an interesting concept that America is trying out. I for the life of me can't believe that people still put their heads in the sand and think that somehow our country is a level playing field.

That myth I think is the opiate of the masses in the USA.


People often get angry or indignant

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when I state "America is not a country, it's a marketplace" and yet I am proven right on a near-constant basis. People like to wave the flag like it means something. I guess it doesn't mean NOTHING....its like the red white and blue "OPEN" flags you see waving at gas stations. Open for business baby! Nothing here matters but money.
"Family, friends, religion...these are the three demons you must slay to make it in business. When opportunity knocks, you don't want to be rushing off to some maternity ward or phoney baloney church....OR SYNAGOGUE" ~ C. Montgomery Burns.


I can't believe that the business that would sell education to somebody based on whether or not they played (expletive) water polo could be so easily exploited by a con artist.

As with Ted Cruz, I'm honestly a little disappointed in myself that I didn't build an entire career predicated upon taking money from the voluntarily stupid and lazy. These colleges are trash for drawing such an awful strike zone for whom they refuse service, and these parents are trash for forcing such an overpriced, worthless product onto their offspring instead of encouraging their kids to chase their dreams and interests while they're at, you know, a (expletive) financial liberty to do so.

Aunt Becky should have put her daughter up for adoption.


Water polo

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is an NCAA and an Olympic sport. On the West Coast, pretty much every high school fields a water polo team. It's actually a really rough game, like rugby.


It's also completely asinine that prowess at it is used to gauge whether or not someone should selectively be sold access to education and influence.

The feds should look into

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The feds should look into Jared Kushner's dad giving Harvard 2.5 million to get his dumb ass son accepted. And this is why Trump doesn't want the schools he went to releasing his embarrassing transcripts.



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at least the lawyers got a good education

You're laughing but think about it

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What's worse? Throwing your money around openly and honestly or throwing your money around and lying about it?

What's worse? Throwing your money at the school, where it nominally does some good for the institution and its students, or throwing your money at one guy who then walks off with it?

And OriginallyFromDotParker, you can pretend that some Wagner was playing in the background when I said that. I assume Wagner plays in your head most of the time anyway, not just when you see a helicopter flying overhead.

Honestly, I don't think so

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So long as rich people gonna be rich, they're going to spend that money.

Paying for a new university building or endowing a scholarship or even a fancy new gym with a (gasp!) climbing wall is a more positive channel for that spending than paying off individuals under the table or buying yet another mansion for themselves.

Now before the commie comrades end their struggle sessions early, put down their Marx-Engels readers, scruff up their beards in front of the mirror, and jump up to tell me that the best way to channel that money is to tax it at 90% and have the government disburse it to state-approved universities for state-approved uses, I'll point out that that's just'd just codify and institutionalize the bribery by shifting it over from a collection of rich private individuals to a collection of government bureaucrats empowered to do the allocation of funds. If you're a university administrator whose career is judged on the amount of funding you bring in, then you'd have extra incentive to court the government bureaucrats who control that funding with promises of extra chances of admitting their kids and their friends' kids to your prestigious institution.

Right now, that form of corruption already exists in the form of research grants which power most places to a significant degree. The things that keep it from getting out of hand are strong anti-corruption laws in many of the government agencies that fund university research, but also the fact that most universities derive much of their operating funds from (federally-subsidized) undergraduate tuition. While you can lobby the government to increase those subsidies* because that money comes in small chunks from many different decision-makers, you cannot promise kickbacks to all of them. But if all the money comes from a handful of decisionmakers, the potential for corruption is that much higher.

*And what do you get when you lobby for more subsidized loans? A generation of students with useless degrees and trillions of dollars of debt they can't pay back. Awesome!

Citations Needed

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*And what do you get when you lobby for more subsidized loans? A generation of students with useless degrees and trillions of dollars of debt they can't pay back. Awesome!


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Now before the commie comrades end their struggle sessions early, put down their Marx-Engels readers, scruff up their beards in front of the mirror, and jump up to tell me that the best way to channel that money is to tax it at 90% and have the government disburse it to state-approved universities for state-approved uses

Act your age, for once. And you talk about living rent-free in other people's heads? Pot, meet kettle.

He is requireing his son to

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He is requireing his son to take drug tests his first year in college? What kind of horrible dad is he? Is he going to make him read a book?


The legal way

The parents could have just given a donation to the school directly and in the open. It's not illegal for a school to accept an unqualified student and even the top schools are willing to go easy on a donors kid.


Youd need to donate a lot

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Youd need to donate a lot more than 500,000 to get noticed enough for your kid to slide into a top tier school. Those schools have billions and get donations in the tens and hundreds of millions every year.

No. Its not because MIT is

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No. Its not because MIT is Division III. Plenty of D3 schools give athletic scholarships. Its because MIT doesn't give athletic scholarships. Period.

If Lori Loughlin bribed her

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If Lori Loughlin bribed her way into getting her kids to attend MIT, I wouldn't be mad. I'd be impressed.

Fun fact

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Her signature is on all the teary-eyed rejection letters from MIT from the early 2000s.

Mine told me that the fact that I didn't get in to MIT in no way reflects on my value as a person. And it went on like that for a whole page.

not rich enough

this scheme is geared towards the people that are not quite rich enough to use the institutional advancement method.


Wait, wait!

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It's just water polo. All the rest are totally on the up and up!


Next time

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They should donate a building, ala Thornton Melon.

Thornton Mellon

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Would have done it the old fashioned way...donated a library, or a wing to a dorm.

...what’s next..your gonna tell me the courts are for sale?

Wake me up when we can start pretending we’re Real People again.


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An SAT class at Kaplan would've been a lot cheaper and would not have risked exposing himself as a law-breaking fool to his children. Allegedly.


Hard to "secure a future"

When you choose to engage in illegal bribery that results in federal charges though!

And jeez, he must really love his children and believe in their abilities...to do something like this [allegedly].


Next time try not to be so obvious. You are demerited one ruble.



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Loughlin paid $250k to get her daughter into USC. Another what, $300k in tuition....and her daughter's goals in life are to be an Instagram influencer! Just giver the girl $500k to start a business.


Kick these kids out of the

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Kick these kids out of the colleges and universities that they were falsely admitted to; have them retake all exams, write their own college essays while being monitored to ensure they are acutally doing their own work; and then they can reapply like the rest of the legitimately enrolled students. If they lied about athletic excellence, well then that will be easy to determine by coaches who haven't been bribed to lie. Must be humiliating to have your professors and fellow students now know that Mommy and Daddy had to pay off others to get you into a school you were not qualified to attend. Not saying it's their fault, but regardless they did not earn their spots at these schools and therefore should not be allowed to remain.

They get in, then what?

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Once they get the kids in by hook or by crook, what happens then? Baby Silver Spoon isn't going to be able to keep up with the other students and what the Professors expect. The parents are send their kids to a college where they will perpetually be the dumbest in the room. Better to go to a college where they're a good fit. Or take a couple of years off to travel the world, start a business, or some other personal endeavor that boosts their application.

Baby Silver Spoon

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spends four years at the frat or sorority house making contacts with other rich kids, and, more important, other rich kids' parents. "I'll give your son a job if you give my daughter one".

Then, off to Wall Street they go.


Dumbest in the room

So, dumber than the other athletes, then?

Because the way this "side door" works is that they pretend to be athletes to get away with being dumb, isn't it?


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...that they're not athletes, and don't pretend to be once they get to campus.

So, I wonder what they're thinking

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at Harvard today.

Relief their mention was minimal? (Someone claimed to know a bribable person there. No proof said person existed)

Investigations to determine if this really happened there, with firings if found?

Investigations to determine if this really happened there, with massive shredding of documents if found?

Just say "Harvard doesn't do this" and hope they're believed?

Popcorn is ready.

Not to mention the federal,

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Not to mention the federal, state and city programs that pay to have colleges and universities to admit unqulified students.

Water Polo?

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As an ex college level water polo player, I am appalled by this insult to the sport!

Did he at least buy beer for the team?

Why is Mr. Singer only

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Why is Mr. Singer only identified by a code-name, and how do we know that code-name refers to him ? Is there a separate document to name him or was it leaked ? Is that type of jargon standard procedure in law-talk ?, because it seems a bit theatrical.

The feds love their code names

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Think of Individual-1.

They typically do it to hide the names of informants, but in this case, the affidavit states, fairly clearly that: "Cooperating Witness 1 (“CW-1”) is an individual who participated in the scheme. CW-1 founded and, together with others, operated The Key and KWF," with The Key and KWF being the sham organizations Singer admitted he set up.