tv MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin MSNBC March 12, 2019 8:00am-9:00am PDT
it's 11:00 a.m. on the east coast. another hour here in washington while craig melvin is on assignment. breaking news, a major college scandal. the feds bust up a large scale scheme helping students cheat on their college entrance exams to get into top schools. two big time hollywood actresses are among the people charges. plus, ready to run? former vice president joe biden speaking not once but twice today in front of friendly crowds. even though he won't say whether he's getting into the 2020 race, he sure did drop a big hint. plus, divide and conquer. president trump leaning into his latest controversy. how he's trying to drive a wedge between jewish americans and the democratic party. we want to start with the breaking news. a nationwide cheating scandal involving college entrance exams
has been exposed by the fbi. felicity huffman, you know her, lori laughlin, they're two of the people charged. the indictment says the scandal gets students admitted to universities as elite athletes regardless of their athletic ability. joining me now is pete williams, nbc news investigations reporter tom winter and glen kirschner is also with us. i want to start not with that blank room, but you, tom winter because you've been looking through these court documents. we expect to hear more about 30 minutes from now, right? >> that's exactly right. 11:30 federal prosecutors and the fbi in boston will give a press conference where they'll detail the charges that were brought today. over 40 individuals being charged or indicted. over 300 pages of court
documents that we're still going through. but to the names you mentioned at the top of the program, lori laughlin and felicity huffman, the two of them have been charged as part of this scheme. essentially people would be -- were paying to have other people take the college exams for their students. in addition to that, the fbi, according to the criminal complaint has both antherousctr where they're going over the details of the scheme. this is what's referred to as a controlled call. the fbi was in the room. they were with the cooperating witness and were listening to the telephone call the entire time. it appears these are solidly implicated. it's also brought in coaches
from ncaa programs. we're not aware at this time that the schools specifically have any sort of criminal involvement here. it appears to be just individuals for those schools. in that particular scheme, what would happen coaches would say we'll bring your kid in as an athletic recruit, even though they didn't have any athletic ability in order to get them into the prominent colleges. some of the schools that are involved, usc, georgetown, university of san diego, university of texas, stanford. so some pretty major division i schools. yale also included in that. we'll find out more here, but right now the fbi is in the process of either rounding up or have already arrested several of these individuals. i would add to that that there's also definitely some cooperating witnesses in this as well as the person who want the point person who organized the scheme out of newport beach, california.
that person has been charged and has a plea agreement with the government. the government appears to have this pretty well laid out. >> do we know since we're showing these pictures of these actresses and you're talking about them, do we know what their involvement was? we know they had this call, was it for like, kids, their friends' kids? were they running this? >> appears to be for their kids. i think the key thing here is that, again, they do have them on those calls and that they are involved. they're charged with a single count each and it's basically mall and services fraud. >> do we have a sense of a timeline on this, how long this has been going on? >> since at least 2011. they say the man at the center of this was william singer. the court documents say over that period of time, 2011 to 2019, he was paid $25 million by
the parents of young people who wanted to get their children into these prestigious schools. tom mentioned four of them. the others are ucla, university of texas at austin and wake forest. in addition to the ones he mentioned. so eight schools in all. the way this worked is, according to the court documents, the parents would contact singer, who would get a phonied up resume for them saying they had athletic prowess and try to rig it so it would be hard for the school to disprove the claims that were made about their ability to be water polo students or tennis players or soccer players. and then singer would bribe the coaches at these schools, who would in turn then put these students into the slots they had for athletic recruitments. and so that's how they say it worked.
12 tennis players at georgetown. soccer students at yale. a sailing student at stanford. this is all according to the court documents. there's academic part of this, too. they say that singer arranged for people to take s.a.t. for high school students, have someone else take the test for them. and then this is especially true in los angeles and houston where they had people who would allow these phonied up tests to be counted for the students. in some cases phonying up their academic credentials but the guts of this is bribing the coaches. p >> pete, put this into context for us here. $25 million seems like a lot of dollars here. how big, how widespread, how significant is this for the feds? >> well, you know, involves many
of the top schools in the country. it's not enormously huge in the sense that it's just eight colleges, but it's eight of the top tier colleges. stanford, yale, ucla, usc, university of san diego. ut austin. wake forest. some of the biggest schools in the country, not an enormous number of students. i've been trying to add up the total number of students that are in the main indictment, and it's a dozen, maybe two dozen or so. but there's more that we're learning about now as more court documents are coming out. and in 23 minutes we'll get more details about what it was. it's significant in the sense that it involves some high paying people, actors, ceos, people with a lot of dough who could try to bribe their way in for their kids to get into these schools. >> we haven't heard from
attorneys or reps for any of these folks. we expect to hear more at the news conference. talk penalties here, especially for the man who seems to be at the center of this. >> an honest services fraud count in violation of the federal law carries up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250 million. there may be a second charge of conspiracy to violate those same laws. that's typically a five year penalty. the guidelines range for these kind of crimes is often well below the statutory maximum of 20 years, depending on, among other things, the criminal history of the offender. so there are a lot of moving pieces. this is the kind of story that's going to resonate with i think families all across the country who scrimp and save to put their kids in college, but want to get their kids into the best colleges available. but they want to do it honestly. so, you know, this is no small
potato. >> when you talk about the scale, it's not so much the numbers, but it's contained to these eight schools, taught tier schools. but it's the quality, right, of these schools. it's the high profile nature of these people, who according to these court documents are wrapped up in this thing. >> as someone who has put five daughters through college, i got a text this morning, dad, another tuition payment is due. this will resonate. >> tom, you said this press conference is where that we're expecting? >> it's going to be the u.s. attorney's office in boston. >> in boston, okay. >> we'll get that shortly. >> cool. t i know you'll all be staying on top of this. more to come as that story develops and more to come on another developing story that's happening today. former vice president joe biden speaking before a friendly crowd, dropping his biggest hint about taking on president trump come 2020. biden's not done today. he's about to speak yet again coming up in the next few minutes. coming up in the next few minutes. you.
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now to the two biggest question marks in the 2020 race. getting closer it seems to answer. former vice president joe biden is set to give his second speech of the day coming up in a few minutes. beto o'rourke is planning to hit up iowa saturday. start with biden. his pair of political events today means for the first time since the midterms we're hearing him get overtly political. it's not just what he's saying but who he's saying it to.
the natural biden constituencies. he's got public policy wauonks earlier. firefighters, particularly after he teased about a potential run, listen to this. >> i appreciate the energy you showed when i got up here. save it a little longer, i may need it in a few weeks. >> to understand why this group is so important to biden and to democrats at large, take a look at this piece. this is from just after the 2016 election. how firefighters help explain the outcome of the 2016 election. nearly 85% of professional firefighters are white, more than 95% are men. making them look a lot like the other blue collar voters who surged to donald trump. let me start now with our senior political editor mark murray .
it really feels like he's getting his ducks in a row. >> he's tanned, he's rested. he looks ready to go. it does kind of -- in his entry along with beto o'rourke, if he also decides to run, is going to set up the most wide open largest most diverse democratic nominating fight i can ever remember. clearly there is a generational divide between joe biden and beto o'rourke. having joe biden in this -- addressing the firefighters is really joe biden in his environment that he knows very, very well. addressing these rank and file union members. this sounded to me like speeches that joe biden had delivered on the campaign trail in 2012. certainly when he was running for president in 2008. but he does have some twists on what he'd actually be talking about. if joe biden does end up running, you'll see him talk about things like free college, community colleges, free
tuition. he's going to talk about a $15 minimum wage. he's going to make a big push for infrastructure. but the question that joe biden has is, are a lot of these things different than you would end up having as a third term of barack obama or hillary clinton if she had beatpen donald trump. there are some democrats that say we need to turn the page and try something that's new. >> mark, thank you. biden also took a shot at president trump in his speech. specifically how the president talks about race and how he defines the idea of what it means to be an american. >> you know, we can't be defined. we're not able to be defined by race, by religion, by tribe. in america everybody gets a shot. that's what the next president of the united states needs to understand.
and that's what i don't think this current president understands at all. >> michael steele, political anni analyst joins us and zulina maxwell. gang, thanks for being here. we've got to talk biden. let's start there. let's say he does jump in. it looks like all signs are leaning that way. how does it change the race? >> i think it's going to raise a question mark. >> do you think based on today there's no more question mark on biden? >> i think so. wouldn't we all be stunned if he turned around and said i need your energy because i decided not to run. we know he wants to run. he wanted to run last time and felt he couldn't. i think he's in this race and he starts out, i think, as the frontrunner to the degree there can be a front runner. he's well known, well liked. he's familiar, that's his strength. that's also his weakness in a party that may be looking for a
fresh face. >> take a walk down memory lane. let's go to october 2015, my friend. three and a half years ago. headline in the "new york times." firefighters union backs away from endorsement of hillary clinton with one board member telling the times, secretary clinton doesn't sell well, the vice president would do better. this has been true for, like, a year and a half. the person they worry about the most is joe biden, do you think it's warranted? >> i think it's warranted. they should be worried about it. beto getting in, i still think the person to beat in the primary is joe biden. i still believe the biggest threat to president trump is joe biden. why? because joe biden and trump play to the same constituency. the democrats think the country has moved so far to the left, that may be true at certain issues, but at its core a little
bit of trump country and biden country. the middle part of the country still matters a big deal. biden connects with them. this is blue collar, you don't get much more blue collar than that room. to hear the response to him i think will be interesting and difficult for democrats to move off him because they want something young and fresh and new. i don't know if the country is necessarily going to buy it. >> let me get you on this. sure, joe biden might be able to take it to donald trump come 2020. but to even get there he's got to get through the primary first? >> right. so i think he's very much in terms of a frontrunner someone who will be strong in a general election. i think the challenge for him is to explain his record in a sufficient way on issues like criminal justice reform and also the anita hill debacle. in terms of making sure that the democratic left understands that record and can come to the table and support him in a primary.
one of the things that joe biden, a challenge for him now that's different than, say, any other time he's run is that he has a lot of candidates that the democratic party really, really likes. and so i think that in a crowded field, sure he's the frontrunner, but he's going to have to earn the votes of the democratic base in order to win the nomination. that's true for all of candidates, but i think that joe biden, to susan's point, i think his strength is the fact he's a known entity. his weakness is also he's a knowne entity. >> all three of you are taking it that biden's going to run. as susan says let's take away the question mark from joe biden. are you taking away the question mark from beto o'rourke? he's heading to iowa to support someone else. >> tell me, who bothers -- what former el paso congressman would bother to go to iowa?
>> for the good of the party, right? getting out there just to help a colleague. >> a presidential candidate would go to rally supporters for the candidate for a special election for the iowa state senate. you know, i think -- i think he wants to run. maybe he had to think about whether it was a real prospect. whau what's the downside to jumping into a crowded field at his age? why not see if you can catch fire, as barack obama did. a lot of people said could he -- was it his year to jump in? he jumped in and look what happened, two term president. >> when you're on the show, we need a michael cam that shows your face. >> it's not insulting in any way. >> no. no. >> it's outrageous. >> he's furrowing his brows. >> i totally get it, but beto o'rourke i think is more flash than anything at this point. i think that he's got a lot of
catching up to do. i think -- >> from the sort of young hopey challengy -- >> i'm going with the guy who's on the ground. if you saw what he did on cnn in that town hall meeting, this guy comes with some serious chops. beto getting into the race, i think, a little bit late in the game given everything you just said, susan. the fact that he's young, he's new, he's fresh. there are a whole lot of young fresh players inside the tent who are doing very well. >> let's talk about a new fresh player we haven't talked about and that is stacey abrams who is like, hey, it's on the table. maybe i'll do it. what do you think? >> i think -- i'm so excited. because i definitely thought that she might put it off because there's so many candidates already in the race. it's so exciting to hear that she's seriously considering it. she has that famous spreadsheet where she lists out all of her
goals in the future, which i think every young woman should do. i think that she has a real shot in this field because of her message. she showed she can run as an authentic progressive in a very deep red state. she lost by 1.4 percentage points. in addition, she can run and focus on an issue on voter suppression. if you recall to 2016, wisconsin is something we're talking about all the time. we're having the convention this time. 200,000 votes were suppressed in wisconsin in a state that donald trump won by a little over 22,000. so when we talk about, you know, the field, i think that stacey's entrance into the race will allow democrats to take that up as an issue that they're talking about. >> when you're running for president, it's more than running for president. people pay attention to what you
say. that's one reason people run for president even if they're long shot. with a field of maybe 20 people, who knows what's going to happen. we're going to go through cycle after cycle where people do really well or they make some terrible mistake where things get shaken up. and one reason i think so many democrats are running they think donald trump is beatable for a second term. >> i love having you on the show, thank you for joining us. we'll stay on top of all things politics but also on top of the breaking news. a massive college cheating scandal. we expect to hear a press conference sometime in the next six minutes. r a press conference sometime in the next six minutes. and the quit rate is twice as high for them. here's a hack: make sure there's bandwidth for everyone. the more you know.
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information on others joining in on the grounding of the planes? >> reporter: i'm struggling to keep up. ireland has joined the list of countries that's grounding the 737 max and several individual european countries are talking about doing the same. we're -- that's what's i was waiting for. france confirming that they rar planning to ground the 737 max. if france and uk does it, you might expect the entire e.u. this joins australia and a long list of other countries. 52% of the global fleet is now grounded. really that leaves pretty much only the u.s. fleet. the u.s. and canadian 737 max fleet that's still flying. even air mexico has grounded their fleet. i can tell you that moments ago, the flight attendants union for american airlines called on the ceo of american airlines to
ground the fleet. the faa, however, has insisted all along it does not see any reason to do this. it doesn't see any data that would require that or essentially justify the action. boeing has said all along it believes the plane is safe. listen, american airline and southwest airline and united and the canadian airlines who fly it, they all say this is a safe plane. there is now this momentum that is rolling across the globe like we haven't seen in a long time to ground the 737 max until we know why. two 737 max 8s crashed within the past five months. the concern is there may be something in common between these two accidents. we don't know what the block boxes say. if there's any common link you can imagine the faa has said they'll act very quickly to put the fleet down.
i would stress that everybody on this side of the ocean, at least in north america, believes that the plane is safe. boy, it's cascading around the world very quickly. >> no kidding. talk about the momentum building not just around the world but from the flight attendants union and politicians on capitol hill. mitt romney is saying out of an abundance of caution the faa should ground this plane as well. do you see a tipping point, or is it your sense that the faa is pretty dug in? >> reporter: i talked to a couple of people within the airlines themselves this morning. their demeanor, clearly has changed. they believe that, in fact, the momentum is going to be such that the faa simply cannot withstand the public pressure and go growing public, you know, outcry around the world to ground the plane. they believe they would not be surprised if thea faa acts. i talked to the former d.o.t.
secretary a short time ago, who grounded the 787 fleet when they had those batteries catching fire, you may recall. he says he would ground the 737 max fleet because of the lack of confidence right now worldwide. >> sorry to interrupt you, tom costello, thank you. we want to take you now to boston. and we appreciate tom's reporting here. about that college entrance cheating scandal. we're about to get more information from the feds in boston. >> in the largest scam every prescott prosecuted. we have charged 50 people nationwide with participating in a conspiracy that involved cheating on college entrance exams, the s.a.t. and a.c.t. and securing admission to elite colleges by bribing coaches at those schools to accept certain students under false pretenses. these coaches agreed to pretend that certain applicants were
recruited competitive athletes when in fact the applicants were now. the coaches knew the students' credentials had been fabricated. we have charged three people who organized the scams, two exam administrators, one exam proctor. one college administrator. nine coaches at elite schools and 33 parents who paid sums to guarantee their childrens' admissions to certain schools. a central defendant in the scene, william singer will plead guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the united states and obstruction of justice. singer allegedly ran a college counseling service and something called the key worldwide foundation. between roughly 2011 and 2018,
wealthy parents paid singer about $25 million in total to guarantee their childrens' admission to elite schools, including yale, georgetown, stanford, the university of southern california, the university of texas, ucla, and wake forest. beyond enriching himself, singer used that money to bribe college officials, division i coaches, college exam administrators all to secure admission to students not on their merits. the organization was a front singer used to launder the money that parents paid him of which he'd take a portion and dole it out as bribes to coaches and others. more specifically, with respect to the s.a.t. and a.c.t. scheme, numerous parents paid singer between $15,000 and $75,000 to have someone either take the
exam for their child or to correct their child's answers afterwards. all to achieve a sufficiently high preagreed score on those tests. singer accomplished this by paying defendant mark ridell, also charged today, to take or correct the exams and by bribing two exam administrators, defendants nicky williams and igore devorsky. singer paid williams $5,000 per student and devorsky about $20,000 per student. to facilitate the exam, singer counseled parents to take their children to a therapist to say the child needed additional time to complete the a.c.t. or s.a.t. once the companies that administer those exams had agreed to the extra time, sin r
arranged for the tiefield to ta the test with one of the administrators he had bribebd a a location in houston or california. beyond that scam, parents paid singer money that he then used to bribe coaches and administrators to designate their children as recruited athletes for various schools. in return for bribes, coaches would use slots that their schools had allocated to them for the recruitment of athletes, instead to take the applicants singer had identified. singer worked with the parents to fabricate impressive athletic profiles for their kids, including fake athletic credentials or honors or fake participation in elite club teams. in many instances, singer helped parents take staged photographs of their children engaged in particular sports. other times, singer and his
associates used stock photos that they pulled off the internet, sometimes photo shopping the face of the child onto the picture of the athlete and submitting it in support of the applications for these children to elite schools. in one example, the head women's soccer coach at yale in exchange for $400,000, accepted an applicant as a recruit for the yale women's team, despite knowing the applicant did not even play competitive soccer. the student was in fact admitted and afterward the student's family paid singer $1.2 million for that service. in addition to the test and college admissions scam, singer arranged for people to take online high school classes in place of certain students so that those students could submit higher grades as part of their overall college application packages. the parents' payments to singer
for these services were made at least in part as charitable contributions to the sham charity that singer had set up. at his direction, employees sent singer's clients letters saying that no goods or services had been exchanged for the purported donation. this allowed the parents to not only mask the true nature of the parent, but also take the tax writeoff at the end of the year. today, we have charged 33 parents nationwide with hiring singer's group to defraud testing companies and/or various universities. these parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege. they include ceos of private and public companies. real estate investors, two well-known actresses, a famous fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm. based on the charges unsealed
today, all of them knowingly conspired with singer and others to help their children either cheat on the s.a.t. or a.c.t. and/or buy their children's admission to elite schools through fraud. singer's clients paid him anywhere between $100,000 and $6.5 million for this service, though the majority paid between $250,000 and $400,000. per student. this case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the study application of wealth, combined with fraud. there can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy and i'll add there will not be a separate criminal justice system either. every year, hundreds of thousands of hard working, talented students strive for admission to elite schools. as every parent knows, these students work harder and harder every year in a system that appears to grow more and more
competitive every year. that system is a zero sum game. for every student admitted through fraud, an honest genuinely talented student was rejected. the parents charged today, despite already being able to give their children every legitimate advantage in the college admissions game, instead chose to corrupt and illegally manipulate the system for their benefit. we're not talking about donating a building so a school is more likely to take your son and daughter. we're talking about deception and fraud. fake test scores, fake athletic credentials, fake photographs, bribed college officials. as you can see from the various charging documents unsealed today in this case, the investigation was complex and extremely labor intensive. william singer will plead guilty
at 2:30 today and the held sailing coach from stanford university will plead guilty today at 3:00 p.m. i want to take the four prosecutors in my office who were assigned to this investigation for their extraordinary work on this case. the lead prosecutor on this matter is up here with me today. i want to thank the fbi and the irs for their usual professionalism and skill in the investigation and take down of this case. the take down today involved over 200 federal agents nationwide, who arrested 50 people in six states and on both coasts. with that, i'll hand things over to the special agent in charge of the boston office of the fbi, thank you. >> thank you, andy. once again, i'm the special agent in charge of the fbi boston division. operation varsity blues
culminated early this morning when approximately 300 special agents from the fbi and the irs criminal investigations set out to arrest 46 individuals across the country for their roles in an international college admissions bribery and money laundering scam. so far, 38 individuals have been safely taken into custody. and seven are working towards surrender. one is being actively pursued. another four are expected to plead guilty here in boston, two later today and two in the coming weeks. we believe all of them, parents, coaches, and facilitators, lied, cheated and covered up their crimes at the expense of hard working students and taxpayers everywhere. our investigation began last may after we uncovered evidence of a large scale elaborate fraud,
while working an unrelated undercover operation. following ten months of intense investigative efforts using a variety of sophisticated techniques, the fbi uncovered what we believe is a rigged system. robbing students all over the country of their right at a fair shot to getting into some of the most elite universities in this country, such as yale, stanford, and georgetown. we believe everyone charged here today had a role in fostering a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for students trying to get into these schools the right way, through hard work, good grades, and community service. unfortunately, what many students didn't know was that the odds had already been stacked against them by corrupt practices, including but not limited to bribery, falsification of athletic profiles, and near perfect
s.a.t. and a.c.t. scores that were fraudulently obtained on behalf of other students. when in reality, they were far from perfect. make no mistake, this is not a case where parents were acting in the best interests of their children. this is a case where they flaunted their wealth, sparing no expense to cheat the system so they could set their children up for success with the best education money could buy. literally. some spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million for guaranteed admission. their actions were without a doubt insidious, selfish, and shameful. and the real victims in this case are the hard working students who did everything they could to set themselves up for success in the college admissions process. but ended up being shut out because far less qualified students and their families simply bought their way in.
what's also cause for concern, is how this was even allowed to happen in the first place. evidence we've obtained shows that trusted coach and administrators manipulated the systems their universities had in place to accommodate students with fake athletic credentials, some of whom did not even play the sports they were recruited today play. it's a sham that strikes at the core of the college admissions process at universities across the country. and the alleged mastermind behind it, rick singer, offered a variety of cheating options as part of a widespread conspiracy to enrich himself, while also facilitating cheating on s.a.t. and a.c.t. exams, recruiting applicants on competitive athletic teams in exchange for bribe and concealing the nature and source of those bribes. there's no telling what their school of thought was while carrying out this conspiracy. today's arrests should be a
warning to others. you can't pay to play. you can't lie and cheat to get ahead because you'll get caught. this was a complex and demanding investigation, and it was charged accordingly. the use of the rico statute signals the magnitude of the crimes. i would like to personally recognize the investigators and prosecutors who pursued this case. however, our work is not done. our investigation continues and we will continue to find and stop those who aren't playing by the rules because, as you can see in this case, the impact on every day people is real. has consequences. and broad ranging effects. my appreciation for the tremendous work done by the united states attorney and his team, as well as my thanks to special agent in charge christina o'connell and her folks at the irs criminal investigation for their continued partnership and support. this was truly a team effort.
thank you. >> good morning. thank you all for being here. i'd like to thank the u.s. attorney and the fbi special agent in charge for the opportunity to address you here today. again, my name is christina o'connell, the special agent in charge of the irs criminal division. this morning special agents from irs criminal investigation, alongside the fbi, arrested dozens of individuals for their role in a nationwide scheme to exchange bribes for college admissions. at the center of the sweeping financial crime is william rick singer. singer and the others arrested today conspired to not only make and receive bribes, but to also funnel those bribe payments for a bogus charity founded by singer. utilizing this charitable business facade he was able to
conceal the nature of the bribe payments. then to further the false legitimacy, singer advised parents that they could deduct the donations as charitable donati donations. irs criminal investigation and the fbi traced over $25 million in bribes laundered through the alleged charity founded by singer. overall, our investigators also revealed that the true objective of those involved was not charity at all, but greed. irs criminal investigation will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement partners and the united states attorney's office on these complex financial investigations to insure the honest american taxpayers receive the message that irs criminal investigation will never let financial corruption and greed trump hard work and honest effort. thank you. [ inaudible question ]
>> it's a -- appears to be a conspiracy nationwide in scope. there are several connections to the boston area, so fake test scores, for example, were smitt submitted to boston college, boston university and northeastern. two defendants live in this state. a lot of conspiratorial activity did happen here. we, frankly, had the resources and the sophistication to take down a case of this magnitude. [ inaudible question ] >> we don't know the total number. as special agent in charge mentioned, this is still ongoing. so the 33 parents who we have charged, their children were able to get in somewhere. there are more than that, but i'm not prepared to give you a total. [ inaudible question ] >> i'm sorry? >> is there anything that's
going to happen to those students? >> there are two aspects to that question. what is the reaction of the schools they go to, we leave that to the schools, that. as to charges against that. it's not an accident that there are no students charged in these charging documents. the parents, the other defendants are clearly the prime movers of this fraud. it remains to be seen whether we charge the students. [ inaudible question ] i don't know the answer to that question. [ inaudible question ] well, there are essentially -- i'll speak more broadly. there are essentially two kinds of fraud that singer was selling. one was to cheat on the s.a.t.
or a.c.t. and the other was to use his connections with division 1 coaches and use bribes to get these parents' kids into school with fake athletic credentials. some parents took advantage of one. i think ms. huffman, for example, took advantage of one of these, which was the s.a.t. cheating scam. some took advantage of the other, some took advantage of both. there's no pattern either way. [ inaudible question ] i can't comment on that. [ inaudible question ] i think what i can say is that our first lead in this case came during interviews with a target of an entirely separate investigation who gave us a tip that this activity might be going on. [ inaudible question ] well, i think he began in this college counseling business years and years ago and built up his connections over time.
i think beyond that, i can't really comment. as you can tell from the charging documents, the recruitment part of the scam depended on the personal relationships he had established with division 1 coaches at a variety of elite students. >> reporter: the students are minimally involved in the exam cheating but for a lot of these things, how involved were the students? how much did they know what was going on? >> that varied tremendously. so for example, when you look at the complaint affidavit, which i realize is quite long, you will see instances where it's important to parents that their child not know that this had occurred. and in that kind of instance, the student would actually go and take the exam and someone working for singer would come in afterward, and correct the examine. in some instances the child would know, and there are occasions when the defendant and his daughter are on a conference
call with singer to discuss the scam. there was a pretty wide range of how parents tried to play this. singer i think attempted to accommodate what parents wanted to do. >> reporter: was it for personal gain or was it going for the athletic programs? >> it was both. so there is at least -- there is one coach who did not take any of the money for himself. the other coaches all took some money for themselves. some took all of it for themselves. but most, it appears, gave some portion to the school's program and took some for their own use. >> reporter: was this case tied to the case that gave you a lead, was this the jerome allen case? >> no, it was not. >> reporter: you said [ inaudible ]. >> they all received test scores
artificially inflated through the cheating scandal. in one instance, as you'll see in the complaint, it appears one of the defendants entered a quid pro quo with singer where singer would help that defendant's student commit fraud and in exchange, the parent would help one of singer's other clients with admission to northeastern university. i know it's a little confusing, but you'll see that in the complaint. >> reporter: is there any evidence that the schools knew anything about this? >> i think that's an important distinction to draw. it appears that the schools are not involved. it appears that in all of these instances, with the exception of one usc administrator who we have charged, university of southern california administrator we have charged. the coaches were allotted slots for athletic recruitment. the coaches worked with singer, meaning they accepted bribes. singer gave the coaches
sufficiently impressive fake profiles to convince everyone internally that the person was good for the team. the person was admitted and the coach pocketed the bribe. [ inaudible question ] it's a little premature for that. i mean, the statutes we charge people under all have very high statutory maximums. but the actual sentence someone might face, we don't know that yet, it's very premature for that. some of these bribes are substantial, bribes, usually, between $250,000 and $400,000, donations to singer from which he made the bribes to college coaches. >> reporter: are there any charges for cooperating witnesses? >> as you guys know, and as you can see in the complaint affidavit, we do occasionally
flip targets and they wind up cooperating. i can't comment on whether any of these people will. i will say the investigation remains active. these are not the only parents involved. we suspect these probably aren't the only coaches involved. so we will be moving ahead to look for additional targets. >> reporter: did singer ever work for any one of these major universities before? >> was he an employee of any of these universities? >> reporter: as an administrator, [ inaudible ]? >> sitting here now, i do not know the answer to that, i'm sorry. >> reporter: does he have a criminal history? >> i'm not going to comment on that. >> reporter: you said he's planning on pleading guilty today. what's led up to that? obviously he didn't just hear about these charges this morning. >> i can't shed a lot of light on that because most of that is confidential. i can state the obvious, which is that we identified singer some time ago and he has decided under a plea agreement to plead
guilty to racketeering among other charges. he knew that already. but that's all i can tell you. [ inaudible question ] offhand, i don't remember what the provisions of the plea agreement will say about sentencing. but the plea agreement should ultimately be a public document and you will be able to see that yourself. it will be docketed. >> reporter: you mentioned that it appears the schools are not involved with the exception of that one administrator. are the schools under investigation [ inaudible ] ongoing investigation? >> right now the schools themselves are not targets of this investigation. as you can see from the charges we've brought, the investigation was very broad. we've charged a lot of people throughout the investigation and our investigation of each of these targets. we have not seen the schools as co-conspirators with this activity. >> reporter: how long has this investigation been under way? >> i think it's been under investigation a little over a
year. am i right about that? a little over a year. >> reporter: [ inaudible ] played these sports? >> it varied. some simply never showed up for the athletics. some pretended an injury. and i think some played briefly and then quit. [ inaudible question ] beyond what's in the complaint avo affidavit, i cannot tell you more than that. >> reporter: are these children of parents that you charged, still enrolled? >> as you'll see from the charging documents, most of this activity is fairly current. so i assume, i can't tell you directly, that the vast majority of the students admitted under false pretences are in these schools and are enrolled and are active students. [ inaudible question ] i don't know the answer to that. i can tell you that based on
what i've seen in the charging documents, i don't think that's the case. i think they got admission but i don't think they got separate athletic scholarships. what singer was good at doing was calibrating the fake credentials to appear realistic and not so impressive as to invite suspicion or additional scrutiny. you have been listening to the feds in boston lay out frankly jaw-dropping details of what they call operation varsity blues, 50 people arrested in a scheme that investigators say exposes the corruption and fraud in a rotten college admissions system. one of the organizers of this scheme will plead guilty later today, accused of taking eye-popping amounts of money, millions of dollars from parents including two famous actresses, to cheat their kids' way into elite schools by pretending their better athletes or did better on exams, in some cases even photoshopping fake pictures to show how good they were at sports they didn't actually play.
i want to bring in nbc investigations reporter tom winter. this is not over yet, you heard investigators saying they were looking at other parents and coaches involved in this. some of these students did know what their parents were up to and some of them didn't. >> yes, hallie, and to tack on to that, the u.s. attorney there not ruling out charges for the students who are presumably still in it school. he said it's up to the schools whether or not those students will remain at those colleges. a couple of things from the press conference, things i -- and also going through the court documents here, things i found of interest. you know, basically they're talking here, they're talking, this is fraud, this isn't -- as the u.s. attorney said, this isn't something where somebody wanted to donate a building or make a preemptive donation to the school. this was outright fraud. the new head of the fbi boston field office saying it's the shame that strikes at the core