Ex-tennis academy president pleads guilty to U.S. college admissions scam

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Ex-tennis academy president pleads guilty to U.S. college admissions scam

Martin Fox passes the federal courthouse before entering a plea in Boston

BOSTON (Reuters) - The former president of a private tennis academy in Texas pleaded guilty on Friday as part of an agreement to cooperate in the ongoing investigation of the largest college admissions cheating and fraud scheme uncovered in U.S. history.

Federal prosecutors in Boston say that Martin Fox, 62, helped pay bribes to coaches at two universities who in exchange facilitated the recruitment of the children of wealthy parents as fake athletic recruits.

He pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy, prosecutors said. Fox's attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fox is among 52 people charged with participating in a scheme in which wealthy parents conspired with a California college admissions consultant to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure the admission of their children to top schools.

William "Rick" Singer, the consultant, pleaded guilty in March to charges he facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and helped bribe sports coaches at universities to present his clients' children as fake athletic recruits.

The 35 parents charged since March include "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman, who was sentenced to a 14-day prison term after pleading guilty, and "Full House" actor Lori Loughlin, who is fighting the charges.

Prosecutors said that in 2015, Fox introduced Singer to Michael Center, a tennis coach at the University of Texas, who in exchange for a bribe helped the son of one of Singer’s clients gain admission to the school as a fake tennis recruit.

In exchange for assisting with the bribe, Singer paid Fox $100,000, prosecutors said.

Center pleaded guilty in April. He is also cooperating with authorities in the investigation, which has been dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues."

Fox also worked with Singer and others from 2015 to 2018 to facilitate cheating on the ACT and SAT college entrance exams by funneling bribe payments to a test administrator, prosecutors said.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Dan Grebler)