William “Rick” Singer, the private college counselor at the center of the Varsity Blues admissions scandal, liked to name drop, though he apparently exaggerated his connections to high-powered people. The president of Harvard was eager to meet with him, Singer told one parent. He bragged to Yale’s former soccer coach that he was on the phone earlier that day cutting a deal with Brown’s president. He had even dated an executive of a publicly traded company who earned $5 million a year but was concerned that she wasn’t as fit as he would have liked, Singer told the coach.
Newly released government phone transcripts in the college admissions case offer a window into how Singer operated in a scheme that has been tied to multimillionaires, celebrities, and some of the most elite colleges in the country. Federal prosecutors have said that Singer worked with parents to bribe colleges and coaches to admit their children, in some cases faking athletic abilities and cheating on the SAT and ACT tests.
Singer has remained the publicly silent but central figure in the case since he first appeared in US District Court in Boston last March to plead guilty to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice.
In court that day, he was a somber college counselor with a shock of silver hair, dressed in a windbreaker. But in the phone transcripts and e-mails filed in court last week, a different image emerges. Singer cajoles stressed-out, wealthy parents; schmoozes with them about his financial investments; and tries to impress them and the coaches who participated in his scheme with his insider knowledge.
The transcripts were filed as evidence in the defense of John Wilson, a Lynnfield parent. A real-estate and private equity executive who has held positions at Bain and Co., Staples, and the Gap, Wilson is alleged to have worked with Singer and spent more than $1.7 million to get his three children into the University of Southern California and Stanford and Harvard universities as purported athletic recruits.
Some parents, including actress Felicity Huffman, have pleaded guilty to their part in the admissions scheme. But others, including Wilson and “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin, are arguing in court that they were duped by Singer and have offered the transcripts and e-mails as their defense.
Here’s what the newly filed court documents show:
■ Singer bragged about his ties to Ivy League college presidents.
In a Sept. 15, 2018, conversation with Wilson, Singer mentioned he planned to meet with Harvard president Lawrence Bacow. Harvard officials said Bacow has never met Singer.
Singer: “Yeah, So we — we’re — that’s why I’m going to Harvard next Friday, because the president wants to do a deal with me . . . because he found out that I’ve already got four already in without his help.”
Two months before, in July 2018, in a phone call with Rudy Meredith, the former Yale University soccer coach who has pleaded guilty to soliciting $1 million in bribes, Singer explained that he was helping a family get their children into Brown University and had just spoken to the president. Singer “completely manufactured” that conversation, Brown officials said. No parents or coaches implicated in the case have been involved with Brown, officials said.
Singer: “Like today I had a conversation with Chris Christina Pax[s]on. Do you know who Christina Pax[s]on is?
Meredith: “No who is she?”
Singer: “She’s the president of Brown so I called her this morning.”
Meredith: “The president? The president at Brown.”
■ Singer became part of his clients’ lives.
In 2017 e-mails, an unidentified parent offered to give Singer advice about potential investments. The man told Singer that his daughter was struggling through her parents’ divorce. Her grades were dropping, and she wasn’t as focused on soccer; she was eating unhealthily and gaining weight.
The parent wrote to Singer, “I am happy to help – you are on my most important team of my family.”
Wilson in 2018 invited Singer by phone to his big birthday bash in a palace in France.
Wilson: “All right. Oh, by the way, you should mark your calendar for next Ju-July, if you want, in, uh, Paris. Got a big birthday, July, uh, 19.”
Wilson: “I rented out Versailles.”
Singer: “Oh, my God. You’re crazy.”
Wilson: “I know. A black-tie party there. So you’ll have to come.”
■ Sometimes Singer was like any other college counselor, trying to encourage families to look at campuses outside the brand-name schools in the Northeast or on the West Coast.
Wilson said his daughters were interested in math and science and Singer suggested that the family look at Georgia Tech University, according the transcript of their call.
Singer: “Now, the best engineering school they could go to, if you really wanted to do that, truthfully, they’re ranked number one in the country . . . in computer science and number three in engineering, is Georgia Tech.
Wilson: “Yeah, that’s kind of . . . I’m not sure. I always think of that as just being too, uh, too redneck and . . . ”
Singer: “Well, Atlanta’s not redneck.”
Wilson: “I know, I know. It’s just . . . [laughter]”
Singer: “Atlanta — Atlanta’s very, very hip. But anyways, but that — you asked for the best schools. They are the best.”
During that same conversation, Singer suggested that Yale’s math and science programs might appeal to Wilson’s daughters.
Singer: “Um, and then you got — like Yale’s becoming a math/science school.
Wilson: “Yeah. Yale’s way too liberal . . . becoming like this liberal like, you know, hotspot.”
Singer: “Yeah, but your — your kid doesn’t have to make that decision to do that. Your kid’s going to be who they are.”
Wilson: “Yeah, I know, I know. . . . Anyway, I — I wouldn’t want them to go to Yale.”