While the people implicated in the “biggest college admissions scandal in history” have so far have been predominantly American – with photos of actresses like Lori Loughlin and ringleader William Rick Singer being plastered across the news – it turns out that the two families who shelled out the most money in the scandal were, not surprisingly, Chinese according to the Wall Street Journal.
One wealthy Chinese family paid an astounding $6.5 million to Singer, the scheme’s mastermind, while a second family was found to have paid $1.2 million. The family involved in the $6.5 million payment has not yet been identified; the $1.2 million payment was in exchange for 21 year old Sherry Guo’s admission to Yale University. Guo moved to Southern California from China to attend high school in the U.S.
Most of the other parents in the scandal paid between $250,000 to $400,000, making the huge sums out of China noteworthy to those investigating and following the scam. They are easily the largest sums reported thus far.
Ms. Guo had her eye on Columbia University or Oxford University but Singer insisted that she go to Yale, calling it a “sure thing”.
Guo learned English after arriving in California about five years ago and attended JSerra Catholic High School in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., starting high school as an older student.
Ironically for the Yale “student”, her lawyer is trying to tuck her behind the defense of ignorance. Guo was “so unfamiliar with how people apply to schools in the U.S., Rick Singer’s instructions to her didn’t seem as out of place as they would to a student who grew up in the United States and has more of an expectation of free choice,” her lawyer said. Guo’s family was introduced to Singer by an LA-based financial adviser, who said that Guo’s family told Singer they wanted to make a “donation” to “one of those top schools” for his daughter’s “application.”
The next day, Singer contacted disgraced Yale Women’s Soccer coach Rudy Meredith, giving Meredith a resume and personal statements, including links to her art portfolio. Singer indicated he would “revise” the information to include a false history playing soccer and subsequently listed her as a member of a junior national team in China and co-captain of a soccer club in So Cal. Mr. Singer paid $400,000 to Mr. Meredith in exchange for having him designate the girl as a recruited athlete, nearly guaranteeing her a spot at the school.
Meanwhile, Guo had actually won awards for her artwork previously, with her former high school principal calling her an “unbelievable artist”. She was eventually admitted to Yale after being tagged as a recruited athlete last fall.
Unfortunately for the potentially gifted youngster, she is no longer at the university. The family has not been charged.
“I just don’t think the question of guilt is clear-cut in Sherry’s case, at all,” her lawyer said.
Guo is part of a larger trend of Chinese families bringing children to the U.S. for primary schooling in the hopes of helping them gain college admission down the line. She is the last on a long line of names that have been profiled as a result of the admissions scandal.
In retrospect, the prominent presence of Chinese families in the admissions scandal is hardly a surprise. Several years ago, numerous US banks got into hot water for hiring the offspring of Chinese oligarchs in exchange for “favors.” As one example, recall that back in late 2016, and after more than three years of digging into JPMorgan’s hiring practices in China, federal authorities determined that the bank hired the children of Chinese leaders as part of a quid pro quo to win business in the booming nation, clearing the way for a costly punishment. Well, somewhat “costly”: the punishment in question resulted in a $264 million settlement with the bank and its Hong Kong subsidiary; ultimately JPM was charged with orchestrating a long-running foreign bribery scheme. This issue, which strikes at the heart of whether JPMorgan violated United States law governing foreign bribery, became a focal point of the investigation and the ensuing settlement negotiations.
Having observed how it can be done at the corporate level, wealthy Chinese decided to reverse the approach, and proceeded with outright bribes targeting America’s most selective universities.
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But back to the college admissions scandal, where last week we reported that former USC soccer coach Laura Janke was cooperating with prosecutors after pleading guilty.