By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – The former co-chairman of law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher on Friday became the second parent to say he would plead guilty to participating in what prosecutors call the largest college admissions scam uncovered in U.S. history.
Gordon Caplan, who the New York-based firm said is no longer a partner, is among 50 people accused by federal prosecutors in Boston of engaging in schemes that involved cheating on college exams and paying $25 million in bribes to secure their children admission at well-known universities.
Thirty-three parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, are charged with participating in the scheme in hopes of getting their children into universities including Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.
Caplan, who along with the others was charged on March 12, in a statement announcing his plans to plead guilty, said he was “deeply ashamed of my behaviour and my actions.”
Prosecutors have been holding plea talks with other defendants. On Wednesday, packaged food entrepreneur Peter Sartorio became the first parent to say he would plead guilty.
Two others, California businessman Devin Sloane and marketing executive Jane Buckingham, have said they are in talks with prosecutors.
Authorities say the scheme was overseen by California college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer, who has pleaded guilty to facilitating the cheating scam and bribing coaches to present the parents’ children as fake athletic recruits.
Prosecutors alleged that in November and December, Caplan made a $75,000 contribution to Singer’s foundation in exchange for the consultant arranging to have an associate proctor his daughter’s ACT college entrance exam and correct her answers.
In a 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 on Friday stressed that his daughter, a high school junior, had no knowledge of his actions. Prosecutors have said some parents took steps to prevent their children from realizing they were benefiting from fraud.
No students so far have been charged. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling told reporters on Friday that prosecutors under him are discussing internally whether to charge any students, “but it is not clear yet whether we would.”
The scandal has prompted public debate about fairness in college admissions.
Harvard University on Thursday said it was launching an independent review of a real estate deal involving its fencing coach and a man whose son was admitted to the school, following a report by the Boston Globe.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Scott Malone, Bill Berkrot and James Dalgleish)