Ex-CEO will plead guilty in Varsity Blues scandal involving 2 colleges

Kimmel tried to get son, daughter admitted to USC, Georgetown on fake athletic credentials.

Former media executive Elisabeth Kimmel is prepared to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for her role in the ongoing pay-for-admission “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal, according to a report Thursday from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The 57-year-old Kimmel, who agreed to pay more than $500,000 to have her son and daughter get enrolled in top universities as athletic recruits under false pretenses, will serve six weeks in prison before then being confined to her home for the first of two years of supervised release if the court accepts her plea deal, which also includes a $250,000 fine and 500 hours of community service. That hearing is scheduled to take place on Monday.

Kimmel, a Las Vegas resident who formerly lived in La Jolla, Calif., would be the 32nd parent to plead guilty, joining high-profile celebrities Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, who were sentenced in 2019 and 2020, respectively. More than 50 individuals in all have been charged, though only about half have been sentenced.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts, Kimmel and the Varsity Blues scheme’s orchestrator, William “Rick” Singer, a former college admissions consultant, reportedly paid $275,000 to get her daughter enrolled at Georgetown University via a spot on the tennis team through coach Gordon Ernst. However, she did not have a competitive tennis background and was not being recruited by the university. Ernst has pleaded not guilty but will head to trial in November. Kimmel also arranged through Singer and others a $250,000 agreement to have her son gain admission to the University of Southern California as a pole vaulting recruit. Her son had no experience in the event.

In addition to the parents involved, coaches from Yale, Stanford, UCLA, UC San Diego, the University of Texas-Austin and Wake Forest also have been implicated or named in the scandal, which was revealed in March 2019 in federal court in Boston.

Singer, who admitted to bribery and helping boost test score numbers, has been charged with multiple conspiracy counts, including racketeering, money laundering, defrauding the United States and obstruction of justice. The former basketball coach in northern California who turned to helping high school students gain admissions to colleges has yet to be sentenced.

Chris Burt
Chris Burt
Chris is a reporter and associate editor for University Business and District Administration magazines, covering the entirety of higher education and K-12 schools. Prior to coming to LRP, Chris had a distinguished career as a multifaceted editor, designer and reporter for some of the top newspapers and media outlets in the country, including the Palm Beach Post, Sun-Sentinel, Albany Times-Union and The Boston Globe. He is a graduate of Northeastern University.

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