Mossimo Founder, Wife Among Those Charged in Alleged College Entrance Conspiracy

kellieaell and Kellie Ell
Mossimo Founder, Wife Among Those Charged in Alleged College Entrance Conspiracy

Many of the nation’s most fashionable teenagers are trying to make their way into Ivy League schools.

But the FBI says some are using questionable methods to get in.  

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Documents from a Massachusetts district court were unsealed on Tuesday, revealing a nationwide college entrance cheating scam.

More than 40 adults — parents to college-bound teenagers — were charged in multiple states for allegedly trying to cheat the system. The methods included paying others to take college entrance exams for their children, or by falsely stating that the students were athletes, among other allegations.  

Thirteen athletic coaches from universities like Yale, Stanford, USC, Georgetown and Wake Forest in North Carolina have been implicated, along with test administrators and 33 parents.

Among them were Hollywood actors Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” and Lori Loughlin, best known as Aunt Becky on “Full House,” along with her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, who founded the American fashion house Mossimo in the Eighties. The privately held company is owned by the Iconix Brand Group.  

The plot was masterminded by California resident William Rick Singer, according to court documents, who paid SAT and ACT test administrators to look the other way as others took tests for college-bound students. Or, university officials who would allow the students to later change their answers.

Meanwhile, parents would pay Singer for his services. Between 2011 and February 2019, Singer received more than $25 million from moms and dads who wanted to send their kids to top schools.

Singer owned the college counseling and prep business Edge College & Career Network, also known as “The Key.” In addition, he founded the Key Worldwide Foundation, or KWF, a nonprofit, in Newport, Calif., around 2012. The company was exempt from paying federal income tax under its nonprofit status.

Parents paid between $15,000 and $75,000 for each test, “Typically structuring the payments as purported donations to KWF,” court documents read.

Then, he would give some of the funds to classroom coaches and university officials to keep quiet, or to say certain students were being recruited as athletes, “regardless of their actual physical abilities,” the documents said.

In addition, the alleged con artist would instruct parents to tell college entrance officials that their child had a learning disability, thereby granting them more time to take tests.

Singer has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud and obstruction of justice. Both Huffman and Loughlin, along with husband Giannulli, have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud. No students have been charged in the case.

Giannulli and Loughlin could not be reached for comment.

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