Mastermind of college bribery scam donated far and wide
At least five more colleges across the country as well as a private high school and numerous nonprofit organizations received donations from the shadowy charity that William “Rick” Singer used to bribe elite college sports coaches, according to tax documents filed by Singer’s charity.
In addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Singer has admitted he paid to bribe college sports coaches, it appears that his foundation also donated hundreds of thousands to other schools not named in the scandal, including New York University, the University of Miami, and Baruch College between 2013 and 2016, records show.
The charity, Key Worldwide Foundation, was ordered to cease and desist this week by the California attorney general.
The new scrutiny of Singer and his organization follows the announcement this week by the US attorney in Boston of what prosecutors call the biggest college admissions scam in history — an elaborate scheme to help the children of rich clients cheat their way into college.
The donations are detailed in publicly available documents that nonprofits are required to file with the IRS. Several of the schools that were recipients of donations from Key Worldwide said Thursday that they became aware of the contributions only this week and are trying to make sense of them.
New York University Athletics received $338,379 between 2014 and 2016, the tax forms show. “We have only just begun to review the origins and purposes of these donations,” an NYU spokesman said.
He said NYU is in Division III of the NCAA, the least competitive sports division, and does not allow the athletics department to prescribe that certain students be admitted.
“Nor do coaches have direct contact with admissions officers about particular candidates whom they may be interested in having for their teams,” said the spokesman, John Beckman.
The charity also lists $100,000 in donations to the University of Miami in Florida. A spokesman for that school — which fields teams in the much more competitive Division I — said it only recently became aware of the donations from Key Worldwide and is trying to learn more.
The Key Worldwide tax return also lists $100,000 to “Fullerton Footbol Academy Inc.,” with an address at California State University Fullerton.
A spokesman for that school said it has no record of any such donation and noted that the address listed for the soccer academy is not the university’s official address.
Instead, he said, state records link the address to Ali Khosroshahin, the University of Southern California women’s soccer coach charged in the scandal. Khosroshahin formerly coached at Fullerton, from 2001 to 2006, its officials said.
Key Worldwide Foundation was first registered in the state of California in 2013, according to documents filed with that state’s attorney general. Its founding documents say that its purpose is to “help empower youth and young adults through educational and sports related programs.”
The charity reported $3.7 million in revenue in fiscal 2016, the most recent year that it submitted records to the state. The charity did not file a tax form for 2017.
The California attorney general’s office sent the charity a cease and desist letter on Wednesday, citing the charges against Singer and his associate Steve Masera. Singer has been cooperating with the FBI since last fall and pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice.
“According to the charging allegations, the Key Worldwide Foundation was a sham organization with no charitable purpose,” the cease and desist letter said.
The charity’s filings also show $325,000 to Chapman University, in California. That school is mentioned in a federal criminal complaint that charges David Sidoo, a Vancouver man, with paying Singer to help his sons cheat on the SAT.
Documents filed in the criminal case do not mention payments to Chapman University. Sidoo’s son was admitted to Chapman in 2012, authorities allege. The donations were made later, in 2015 and 2016, according to tax forms. Sidoo is due in court Friday and is expected to plead not guilty.
In a statement, a spokesman from Chapman said the school is cooperating with the Justice Department and not aware that it has been involved in any wrongdoing.
“Any irregularities in the gifts from the Key Worldwide Foundation, should they exist, were and are totally unknown to us,” said the statement from spokesman Jamie S. Ceman.
The charity also donated $150,000 to DePaul University, in Chicago. A spokeswoman for that school said Singer’s child was a student there who graduated in 2017. Singer made donations to support study abroad programs, she said.
“Not unlike many parents, Mr. Singer made several contributions to DePaul,” said the spokeswoman, Carol Hughes, adding that the school has no reason to believe the donations were connected with the recent charges.
Singer’s foundation also donated $50,000 to Baruch College, a college of the City University of New York, in 2015, records show. Representatives from that school did not return requests for comment.
The charity also appears to have donated nearly $78,000 to Loyola High School, a private Jesuit school in Los Angeles where annual tuition is $20,000. Representatives from that school did not return calls for comment Thursday.
The tax forms list a number of large donations to the schools that are named in the complaint, including $550,000 to the University of Southern California, $547,000 to the University of Texas Austin, and $10,000 to the Georgetown University tennis program.
Former Georgetown University tennis coach Gordon Ernst is listed on four years of tax forms, receiving a total of $1.5 million as a “consultant” for the nonprofit. Ernst is charged by the federal government with accepting bribes from Singer in connection with the admissions scandal.
Singer’s charity also donated to several other nonprofit foundations in California and Florida.
Generation W is a Florida-based women’s leadership organization founded by Donna Orender, who served as the former president of the WNBA. Singer’s foundation gave Generation W $25,000 in 2014. Orender did not return calls or e-mail on Thursday.
LadyLike Foundation is a faith-based organization in Los Angeles that teaches etiquette to women living in underprivileged, inner-city communities. Leah Cher Pump, a former private school principal, started the foundation in 2007. Singer’s foundation gave LadyLike $10,000 in 2016. Pump did not return calls or e-mails Thursday.