By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – The former head coach of women’s soccer at Yale University admitted on Thursday that he accepted bribes to help parents get their children into the Ivy League school, becoming the third person to plead guilty in the U.S. college admissions scandal.
Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, whose decision to cooperate helped investigators discover the mastermind of the wide-ranging scheme, pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to conspiracy and wire fraud charges.
He is among 50 people, including the actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, charged with participating in the scheme, headed by college admissions counselling service operator Rick Singer.
Prosecutors said the consultant charged wealthy parents hefty sums and then used bribes and cheating to illegally secure admission for their children to universities including Yale, the University of Southern California and Georgetown University.
Some $25 million in bribes were paid to coaches including Meredith who helped Singer’s clients secure spots for their children as fake athletic prospects, prosecutors said.
Singer also facilitated cheating on college entrance exams, prosecutors said. He pleaded guilty on March 12 to charges including racketeering conspiracy and is cooperating with investigators.
Prosecutors said Meredith agreed beginning in 2015 with Singer to accept bribes to designate applicants as recruits to the Yale women’s soccer team regardless of their athletic abilities.
In one instance, prosecutors alleged that Meredith in 2017 accepted a $400,000 payment to designate the daughter of a Los Angeles-based financial advisor as a soccer recruit even though she did not play competitive soccer.
Singer sent Meredith a fabricated athletic “profile” for the student that claimed she was co-captain of a prominent California club soccer team, prosecutors said.
In total, Meredith received more than $860,000 from Singer, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen said in court the scheme was uncovered during an investigation into an unrelated “pump-and-dump” stock market scheme involving a California man, who told prosecutors he was engaged in a bribery scheme with Meredith.
The California man, father of a Yale applicant, was Morrie Tobin, who pleaded guilty on Feb. 27 to conspiracy and securities fraud charges, a person familiar with the matter said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, after receiving the tip, secretly recorded a meeting in which Meredith sought $450,000 in exchange for designating Tobin’s daughter as a soccer recruit, according the person and court records.
Rosen said investigators learned about Singer during that meeting. He said Meredith subsequently agreed to record phone calls with Singer, helping prosecutors build their case against him.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)