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8 Elite universities sued by college student in wake of admission bribery scheme

2019-03-14

People walk by Hoover Tower on the Stanford University campus on March 12, 2019 in Stanford, California. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

One of two Stanford students suing eight elite universities in wake of the $25 million college admissions bribery scam is reportedly dropping out of the class action lawsuit.

Erica Olsen’s attorney told ABC News that his client is no longer seeking legal action against the university. The attorney added that additional plaintiffs will be added when an amended complaint is filed later in the day Thursday.

Olsen’s departure comes less than 24 hours after she and Kalea Woods claimed they were denied a fair shot at gaining legitimate admission to schools including The University of Southern California, Yale University and the University of California at Los Angeles in a lawsuit filed in Northern California Wednesday night.

The students additionally contended their degrees from Stanford have been devalued by criminal and racketeering charges raised by prosecutors in connection with the high-profile scam. The university is one of several ensnared in the criminal case, which accuses coaches and administrators of accepting bribes and other types of payment in exchange for ensuring the admission of certain students.

According to investigators, William (Rick) Singer, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges, orchestrated the elaborate scheme — which involved him paying people to take admission exams for the children of his wealthy clients and bribing proctors and administrators to look the other way.

Prosecutors said he also used a phony charity, The Key Worldwide Foundation, to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to college coaches, who in turn, would pretend his wealthy clients had been top student athletes.

This combination photo shows actress Lori Loughlin at the Women's Cancer Research Fund's An Unforgettable Evening event, left, and actress Felicity Huffman at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, 2018.
This combination photo shows actress Lori Loughlin at the Women's Cancer Research Fund's An Unforgettable Evening event, left, and actress Felicity Huffman at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles on Sept. 17, 2018. (/ AP)

Yale, Georgetown, and Wake Forest University were also among those caught up in the scandal.

Olsen, according to the lawsuit, paid an $80 fee to apply to Yale University in 2017. She submitted a “stellar standardized test score, and a glowing profile,” which noted that she was also an athlete and a dancer.

“At the time she applied, she was never informed that the process of admission was an unfair, rigged process, in which rich parents could buy their way into the university through bribery,” the lawsuit reads.

Woods, who similarly had “stellar test scores” and “athletic skills,” said she now regrets shelling out $85 to apply to USC.

“Had she known the system at USC was warped and rigged by fraud, she would not have spent the money to apply to the school,” it continues. “She also did not receive what she paid for — a fair admissions consideration process.”

Both women went on to attend Stanford University, “another one of the universities plagued by the fraud scandal.”

They argue in the suit that a degree from the school “is now not worth as much as it was before, because prospective employers may now question whether they were admitted to the university on their own merits, versus having rich parents who were willing to bribe school officials.”

The suit additionally names the University of San Diego, the University of Texas, Wake Forest University and Georgetown University, all of which had associated individuals implicated in the bribery case, as plaintiffs.

More than 40 people have been implicated in the widespread elite college admission bribery scheme. Parents — including Hollywood stars, Huffman and Loughlin — ACT and SAT administrators and coaches at universities have also been charged.

Huffman, well-known for playing Lynette Scavo on “Desperate Housewives,” was indicted on charges stemming from the $15,000 she paid to have someone take an admission exam for her daughter, which she also allegedly disguised as a charitable donation. Her actor husband, William H. Macy, was not indicted in the case, though the couple was caught discussing the scam in a recorded conversation with a corroborating witness.

Loughlin, who was shooting a TV movie in Vancouver, British Columbia, Tuesday when her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, was arrested in the nationwide bust, returned to the U.S. and was arrested Wednesday. They’re both facing charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

The “Full House” actress and her husband allegedly agreed to pay $500,000 to have their two daughters listed as potential recruits for the USC crew team — despite the fact that they do not participate in the sport — to boost the likelihood of their admittance.

Both couples are currently out on bond.