Fourteen more current and former students who were denied admissions into elite universities tied to the nation's college admissions scandal are now suing the colleges and the mastermind of the scheme, seeking to get back their application fees.
The class-action complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Friday, builds on a similar class-action lawsuit brought by two students shortly after the Justice Department in March indicted 50 individuals, including parents and college coaches, in the sweeping "Varsity Blues" scandal.
The new suit is filed on behalf of all students who were rejected after paying an application fee between 2012 and 2018 to one of eight universities tied to the cheating and bribery scandal.
Twelve parents of denied students have also signed on in the latest suit, making the total number of plaintiffs 26.
The suit argues that universities named in the college admissions scandal – although not charged by the government – were negligent in failing to maintain "adequate protocols and security measures" to ensure the sanctity of the admission process and to ensure their employees were not engaged in any bribery schemes.
As damages, the suit points to application fees paid by the students "without any understanding or warning that unqualified students were slipping in through the back door of the admissions process."
"Each of the universities took the students’ admission application fees while failing to
take adequate steps to ensure that their admissions process was fair and free of fraud, bribery, cheating and dishonesty," the suit reads.
Most of the plaintiffs reside in California, with others making their home in Texas, Florida, Washington, South Carolina New Jersey and Nevada. Each moved on to other academic pursuits at different colleges and universities after getting denied admissions by at least one of the schools in question.
Defendants named in the class-action suit are Rick Singer, the scheme's ringleader who has admitted to taking more than $25 million in payments from wealthy parents to facilitate their children's entry into the universities, and eight universities: the University of Southern California, Stanford University, the University of San Diego, the University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University, Yale University, Georgetown University and the Regents of the University of California, which oversees UCLA.
USC, which had more students implicated in Singer's scheme than any other school, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The plaintiffs have asked a federal judge to enjoin the universities from continuing the "unfair business practices" alleged in the complaint and to pay damages and restitution to the plaintiffs.
"It’s a straightforward claim and a simple remedy," David Cialkowski, partner of the Minneapolis-based law firm Zimmerman Reed, said in a statement. "The students want their money back. They request that anyone who paid an application fee to any of the eight named universities but was denied admission gets their application fee returned."
The lawsuit also seeks for defendants to pay an unspecified amount of punitive damages as well as attorneys' fees.
Cialkowski is part of the same legal team that filed a similar class-action lawsuit in March on behalf of students Tyler Bendis of Orange County, California and Nicholas Johnson of New Jersey and their parents.
John Medler Jr., another of the plaintiffs' attorney, told USA TODAY the plan is to consolidate the two suits.
The plaintiff listed first in the new complaint is Alyssa Tamboura, a student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, who applied to Stanford in 2018 but was denied. She paid an application fee between $55 and $110, according to the lawsuit.
"In connection with her application and payment of her application fee, Plaintiff Tamboura reasonably believed she would receive fair consideration and a fair merit-based application process, based on the same criteria applied to all other applicants," the suit says.
The other 13 students suing the eight universities are:
- Marine Hall-Poirie, a graduate of the University of Oregon, who was rejected by Georgetown.
- Yasamin Ghodsbin, a graduate of Loyola Marymount University who was rejected by USC
- Mika Tjoa, a student at the University of California, Berkeley, who was rejected by USC, UCLA and Stanford.
- Timmy Mai, a student at San Jose State University, who was rejected by Stanford and Yale.
- Esteban Frausto, a student at the University of California Irvine, who was rejected by USC and the University of San Diego.
- Karl Armbrust, a student at the University of Oregon, who was rejected by the University of Texas at Austin.
- Leilani Durden, a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was rejected by USC and UCLA.
- Jillian Garcia, starting college at the University of North Texas, who was rejected by the University of Texas at Austin.
- Laila Keyhan, a student at UCLA, who was rejected by Stanford and Georgetown.
- Caleb Crane, a student at the University of Washington Tacoma, who was rejected by USC and the University of San Diego.
- Cole Smith, a student at Steven’s Technology Institute, who was rejected by Stanford and Wake Forest.
- Kathleen Tatusko, a student at Clemson University, who was rejected by Wake Forest.
- Angelique Vollmer, a student at the University of Nevada Reno, who was rejected by Stanford and USC.
Singer has pleaded guilty to four felonies for taking bribes from parents to either designate their children as competitive athletic recruits to get them into a university or having someone cheat on their children's ACT or SAT exams.
The sweeping case has played out in federal court in Boston. Twenty-two of the 50 defendants have either pleaded guilty or agreed to later in court. The first defendant to be sentenced for crimes, former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, was spared prison by a federal judge last week and will instead serve two years of supervision.
As a legal basis for relief, the class-action lawsuit alleges that Singer committed racketeering activity – among the charges to which he's pleaded guilty.
Plaintiffs argue the universities violated multiple laws including consumer protection laws of all 50 states and the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act, which makes it illegally to falsely advertise the characteristics of goods or services. In this case, they contend the universities have falsely advertised that their admissions processes are fair and unbiased.
Universities tied to the admissions case have taken action to terminate coaches or others they employed who were charged in the case. None of the universities are parties in the Justice Department's case. Instead, prosecutors have argued that the universities were victims of the fraudulent activity carried out by Singer, parents, coaches and other co-conspirators.
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 14 more rejected students sue universities, mastermind of admissions scheme