Transcripts open a window into audacious admissions scam

Gordon Caplan of Greenwich, Conn., walked out of federal court Tuesday in New York.
Gordon Caplan of Greenwich, Conn., walked out of federal court Tuesday in New York.Julie Jacobson/Associated Press/Associated Press

The lengthy FBI affidavit that lays out the details of the massive college admissions cheating scam is peppered with excerpts from recordings of conversations between William “Rick” Singer, the alleged ringleader in the scheme, and wealthy parents seeking to get their children into selective colleges.

The transcripts of the alleged conversations tell stories of concerned parents looking for an illegal “side door” into college, talking to Singer, a scammer who, unbeknownst to them, had become a cooperating witness for investigators — sharing everything with the FBI.

Here are some highlights:


William E. McGlashan Jr. of Mill Valley, Calif., a senior executive at a global private equity firm, allegedly wanted to get his son into the University of Southern California. According to the affidavit, Singer told McGlashan he would arrange for his son, whose high school did not have a football team, to be considered as a kicker for USC’s powerhouse football team.

SINGER: So I’m gonna make him a kicker.

McGLASHAN: (laughs) He does have really strong legs.

SINGER: (laughs) Well, this will be for — this will be good for one of the —

McGLASHAN: Maybe he’ll — maybe he’ll become a kicker. You never know.

SINGER: Yeah! Absolutely.

McGLASHAN: You could inspire him, [SINGER]. You may actually turn him into something. I love it.

SINGER: I know. Well I had a boy last year, I made him a long snapper. And —

McGLASHAN: I love it.

SINGER: — he was 145 pounds. Long snapper. So —

Later in the phone call, this exchange took place:

SINGER: So what I’ll probably need, if you guys have any pictures of him playing multiple sports, or something where you can kind of see his face a little bit in action?


McGLASHAN: Umm. Hmm.

SINGER: It would be helpful because I will Photoshop him onto a kicker.

McGLASHAN: (laughs) Okay. Okay. Let me look through what I have. Pretty funny. The way the world works these days is unbelievable.

SINGER: It’s totally cra — like, last year I had a boy who did the water polo, and when the dad sent me the picture, he was way too high out of the water. That nobody would believe that anybody could get that high.


SINGER: So I told that dad, I said, “What happened?” He said he was standing on the bottom! I said, “No no no no no.”

McGLASHAN: Yeah exactly. You gotta be swimming. Exactly.

A poster containing a photo of William "Rick" Singer was displayed during a news conference Tuesday in Boston.
A poster containing a photo of William "Rick" Singer was displayed during a news conference Tuesday in Boston.Steven Senne/Associated Press/Associated Press

Elisabeth Kimmel, a resident of Las Vegas and La Jolla, Calif., and the president and owner of a media company, allegedly wanted her daughter admitted to Georgetown as a tennis recruit and her son admitted to University of Southern California as a track recruit.

She and her spouse, who was not named in the affidavit, were concerned when the son arrived at USC and found out he was supposed to be track star.

SPOUSE: So [my son] and I just got back from [U]SC Orientation. It went great. The only kind of glitch was, and I — he didn’t — [my son] didn’t tell me this at the time — but yesterday when he went to meet with his advisor, he stayed after a little bit, and the — apparently the advisor said something to the effect of, “Oh, so you’re a track athlete?” And [my son] said, “No.” ’Cause, so [my son] has no idea, and that’s what — the way we want to keep it.


SINGER: Right.

SPOUSE: So he said, “No, I’m not.” So she goes, “It has it down that you’re a track athlete.” And he said, “Well I’m not.” She goes, “Oh, okay, well I have to look into that.”

. . .

KIMMEL: So why is he still, why was he flagged by this advisor as being a track athlete?

SINGER: He was flagged as an athlete getting in.

KIMMEL: So does that just follow him around? On all of his records?

SINGER: I have no idea ELISABETH, but it doesn’t matter because every other kid who’s gone through the same process will be having the same thing and it doesn’t matter ’cause he gets no priority over anybody. I’m sure on his application he’s flagged as ev — as all the kids as they got in — like there’s a water polo kid who’s not gonna be a water polo kid, there’s the baseball kid who’s not gonna be a baseball kid and they just — they’re not being recruited. They’re not on the [athlete] priority [registration list] to get any priority stuff, so I would just go about your business and let it be as it [is] and not even pay attention to it ’cause it’s the first time as anybody’s ever [said] anything.


KIMMEL: I will — so we have to hope this advisor doesn’t start poking around?

SINGER: Well if the advisor does, she’s gonna call the person who’s responsible for all of this, that’s the person who got [your son] admitted, and she’ll just say he decided not — to not compete.

Gordon Caplan, a resident of Greenwich, Conn., and New York City, an attorney and co-chairman of an international law firm based in New York, allegedly sought to get help from Singer on ACT testing for his daughter, which involved getting her extra time and a special test center with a proctor who was part of Singer’s scheme to doctor her answers. The cost would be $75,000. Singer told him the daughter wouldn’t realize she had been helped. The maximum score is 36 on the ACT tests.

SINGER: She’ll, she’ll think, right, she’ll think she took it. She’ll feel good about herself. She’ll get a great score and she’ll be like, “Mom and dad, can I…” You know what’s going to happen? She’s going to say, “Dad, can I re-take the test again? ’Cause I think I can do better.” And that happens all the time, right? She’ll get whatever, and we will say no, just so you know that.

CAPLAN: But it will be somewhere in the 30s.

. . .

CAPLAN: Okay, well look, we are in for the, get her extra time, to the extent we can, extra time on the test.

SINGER: Right.

CAPLAN: And then, and taking the test one time and get her a, you know, a score in the 30s.


SINGER: Correct.

CAPLAN: We are in for that, at 75, not an issue.


CAPLAN: Done. The other stuff (laughing) —

SINGER: That will be up to you guys, it doesn’t matter to me.

CAPLAN: Yeah, I, I hear ya. It’s just, to be honest, I’m not worried about the moral issue here. I’m worried about the, if she’s caught doing that, you know, she’s finished. So I, I just —

SINGER: It’s never happened before in twenty-some-odd years.

Caplan also allegedly asked whether anyone involved in the scam had ever been caught, and he was reassured by Singer.

CAPLAN: And has anybody ever gotten into an issue with this?

SINGER: Nobody. We’ve done this for four or five years and had probably 20-plus people do it. So — but that’s the process.

CAPLAN: Never been an issue?

SINGER: Never been an issue. So the decision here is yours. I’m — I’m not — I don’t want to influence you in any way. It’s totally up to you guys, however you guys want to do this.

CAPLAN: And do other — are you guys the only ones who do this or —?

SINGER: Based on what I know. I only know myself and the families that we work with. And so, you know, we have lots and lots of families. Not everybody gets extended time. Not everybody gets extended time with multiple days. So there’s lots of people who cannot do it and then there’s lots of people that do do it. So it’s kind of all in your corner. But now — you understand the process now.


Matt Rocheleau of the Globe staff contributed to this report.