It could have been a movie.
A group of wealthy parents from Beverly Hills, Manhattan and Orange County bribing officials at the country’s top schools with payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars to accept their underperforming children.
But the truth behind the Varsity Blues scandal was more salacious than any scriptwriter might have dreamt up.
Hollywood stars including Lori Loughlin and the Felicity Huffman ended up in jail. Pampered children were thrown out of the schools they’d deceived and crucified by egalitarians.
Some – like the scheme mastermind Rick Singer – cut deals with the government to avoid behind put behind bars. He is still awaiting punishment for his crimes, three years after flipping on all the parents he took money from to cooperate as a witness, and is living quietly in a trailer park in Florida.
Last week, the scandal took its most sinister turn: Robert Flaxman, a 66-year-old real estate tycoon, hanged himself in his home in Malibu. Flaxman had paid to get his son, Jacob, into the University of San Diego and to boost his ‘troubled’ daughter Kaylin’s SAT scores.
In total, 53 parents, college coaches and admissions officials were charged as part of the infamous Department of Justice operation.
Here, DailyMail.com looks back on the key players involved, and how they have handled the fallout ever since.
Felicity Huffman: Paid $15,000 for her oldest daughter’s SAT scores to be improved and spent 11 days in jail
Huffman and her husband paid Singer’s operation $15,000 to massage her oldest daughter Sophia’s SAT scores.
The indictment revealed how Sophia took the test at a center in West Hollywood on December 2, 2017.
Once she’d completed the test, Mark Riddell – who was Harvard educated and on Singer’s payroll – changed the answers and her score increased by 400 points.
The indictment didn’t specify which school she had been trying to get in to.
Felicity Huffman with her husband William H. Macy and their two daughters, Georgia and Sophia, in 2019. Sophia was ‘unaware’ that her mother had paid Singer to boost her SAT scores
Huffman decided against using the scheme for her second daughter, Georgia. She was arrested at home on March 12 in a dawn raid by FBI agents.
Huffman released this statement in April 2019. She spent 11 days in jail and has since kept an extremely low profile
The actress, best known for her role in Desperate Housewives, was silent for a month.
Presumably under the advice of her lawyers, she watched as fellow defendants fell like dominoes, pleading guilty to their role in the scheme and being handed short but stern jail terms.
When she broke her silence a month after the arrest, she took ‘full responsibility.’
‘My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her.
‘This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life.
‘My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty,’ she said.
In a letter to the judge later, she pleaded that she had only been trying to be a ‘good mother’.
Felicity Huffman completed an 11 day sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution near San Francisco in October 2019
Her daughter was being unfairly marginalized as a result.
The judge accepted her guilty plea but rejected her request to avoid jailtime, emphasizing that she should be given no lighter a sentence than any of the other parents.
Huffman spent 11 days in jail in the Federal Correctional Institution near San Francisco in October 2019.
She has kept a low profile since her release, but proudly celebrated Sophia’s acceptance to Carnegie Mellon – an acting school – in 2020.
Her younger daughter Georgia is a student at Vasser.
Lori Loughlin: Fuller House star and her husband paid to get BOTH their daughters into USC by pretending they were star athletes
Loughlin and her husband are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits
Loughlin and Huffman, the two most well-known were he faces of the scandal.
She and her husband Mossimo Giannulli held out for the longest of most of the defendants before changing their pleas to guilty in 2020.
She then spent two months in the same prison as Huffman, while her husband spent closer to five months behind bars.
He was released three weeks early.
Their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose, were presented to officials at USC as star athletes. Singer coached the family on how to pose for photos on rowing machines that would make them look like crew recruits.
The problem was neither girl had ever rowed before.
The scam worked; both girls were accepted.
When the scandal exploded, they quietly withdrew. Olivia Jade was already running a successful YouTube channel where she gave make-up tutorials to fans.
She has since pivoted her notoriety into a podcast.
The pair both say that they ultimately felt worst for their mother.
‘I think just the hardest part of this entire thing was watching how horrible, or reading or seeing, how horrible the media was to both you and mom.
‘And actually knowing you guys and knowing mom has the biggest heart,’ Bella said.
The photos of Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli’s daughters posing on rowing machines in their bid to allegedly bribe their way into the University of Southern California as athletes
In this photo released by prosecutors Isabella Giannulli appears to be posing on an ERG machine
Emails show how Lori’s husband Mossimo Giannulli conspired with Rock Singer about getting the girls into USC
Loughlin quietly returned to acting but is keeping a low profile. Her daughters withdrew from USC and Olivia (shown) now has a podcast
Lori Loughlin and daughter Olivia Jade
Olivia complained about the fact her family had become the face of the scandal.
‘It didn’t nearly affect me as much as seeing mom getting… she really took this whole thing on her back solely.
‘There are a lot of people that were in this case and a lot of other parents and I don’t know one other person’s name,’ she said.
Lori broke her silence about her crimes while volunteering for a company called Project Angel Food.
She said she had been left feeling ‘down and broken’ after the scandal, but the charity helped pick her back up.
She and her husband sold their Bel Air mansion and moved in to a smaller home in The Hidden Hills.
Lori returned to acting this year, reprising her role in the Hallmark series When Calls the Heart.
Rick Singer: The mastermind who turned on all the rich parents he fleeced to cut a deal with the government and avoid jail
Singer was the founder of The Key, the ‘coaching’ business he used as a front for the scheme.
It remains unclear how exactly the government found about his business, but once it did he sang like a canary.
Singer is frequently referred to in almost all of the indictments as a ‘cooperating witness’.
He informed the government which parents had used his services and which college admissions and coaching staff he’d compromised.
College admissions bribery scandal mastermind Rick Singer is now living in a mobile home community in Florida – a far cry from the wealthy Newport Beach, California neighborhood where he once resided
DailyMail.com caught up with the former college admissions consultant this week as he gets adjusted to his new life in Isle of Palms trailer park in St. Petersburg, Florida
His testimony helped lead to the arrests of 53 people.
In total, he took in $25million in bribes from parents who were desperate to get their children into the schools where he’d also bought access.
Singer remains free to this day. He lives a quiet life in a trailer park in Florida. DailyMail.com tracked him down earlier this year and heard from neighbors who said he keeps mostly to himself.
There is no date set for his sentencing yet.
Prosecutors are also recommending that if he is given jailtime, he should be given a term that is on the lower end of the scale.
Robert Flaxman: Real estate tycoon who paid for his son and ‘troubled’ daughter to get into college… but took his own life three years later
Robert Flaxman, the real estate developer, died last week
Robert Flaxman was one of the dozens of lesser-known parents who became embroiled in the scandal.
Though rich, he didn’t have the same notoriety as Loughlin or Huffman, or even some of the other defendants like Hot Pockets heiress Michelle Janavs.
But he made headlines again today with the sad news that he had taken his own life at his home in Malibu.
Flaxman had paid $250,000 for his son, Jacob, to gain entry to The University of San Diego in 2016.
He also paid Singer’s operation $75,000 to massage his daughter Kaylin’s SAT scores so that she too would be accepted into the college of her choice.
Flaxman ended up pleading guilty to the lesser charge that involved his daughter.
He spent a month in jail.
Federal prosecutors had recommended a sentence of eight months in prison, one year of supervised release and a $40,000 fine.
Before sentencing, he pleaded with the judge that he had only been trying to protect Kaylin, who was in ‘recovery’.
He didn’t specify what she was recovering from, but said he’d wanted to ensure her place at college because he felt it would be where she was safest.
Flaxman was charged with bribing coaches at the University of San Diego to accept his son Jacob (left) and for paying to boost his daughter Kaylin’s SAT scores. He wept in court that Kaylin was in ‘recovery’ and that he wanted her to be safe
Friends last week asked police to perform a wellness check on Flaxman at his home in Malibu.
He was found hanging in the house.
Flaxman was the owner and CEO of Crown Realty & Development Inc., a real estate firm that operates and develops commercial property in California, Arizona, North Carolina and elsewhere. Its website says it manages nearly $1 billion in property.
The other defendants: A Hot Pockets heiress, a former Staples executive who was jailed for 15 MONTHS in prison and a Miami investor who received a PARDON from President Trump
Hot Pockets heiress Michelle Janavs was sentenced to five months in prison for bribing her two daughters into USC. She received one of the strictest sentences but it was delayed by COVID-19.
She has her sentence delayed by COVID.
Among other notable defendants is John Wilson, a business executive who was given the harshest sentence – 15 months – for paying Singer $1.2million in donations.
Wilson pleaded not guilty throughout the legal process and was punished for it, receiving a far harsher sentence then anyone else.
He is appealing his conviction, maintaining that he believed his donations were legitimate.
Another father, Robert Zangrillo, had his conviction pardoned by President Trump.
Zangrillo was one of the dozens of people pardoned by Trump in his final hours in office in January 2021. As a result, he faced no jail time and his record has been cleared.
He had tried to bribe officials to get his daughter Amber into USC and was also accused of having someone else take tests for her.
In pardoning Zangranillo, the White House said his daughter took the tests herself.
They called him ‘a well-respected business leader and philanthropist’ and insisted his daughter Amber achieved her grades on her own merit.
Many of the parents, coaches and teachers involved are still yet to be sentenced.