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College Entrance Scandal Fallout Continues

MARK BRODIE: Fallout continues from yesterday's announcement that 50 people have been charged with bribery and other crimes in an effort to get students into some of the country's most prestigious colleges and universities. Two well-known actresses are accused of taking part in the scheme to win admission for their kids. Law enforcement says some parents spent more than $6 million to make sure their children got into the school they wanted. Hannah Fry has been covering this story. She's a reporter for The Los Angeles Times and she joins me. And Hannah a do we know yet how law enforcement originally found out all this was happening?

HANNAH FRY: Yes actually so law enforcement got a tip about it from a source that they were interviewing in another investigation in May 2018. So they've been working this case for about a year.

BRODIE: Is there a sense that it is more widespread than what they have told us about so far?

FRY: You know I definitely think there's a sense of that and this investigation is still ongoing. Federal authorities yesterday went to several prominent high schools in Southern California to seek records related to students whose parents were believed would have hired Mr. Singer.

BRODIE: Now let's talk about William Rick Singer who is this guy?

FRY: William Singer is actually he's a Newport Beach businessman and he created a nonprofit to kind of further this scheme. He was really the center of this whole scandal.

BRODIE: So we've heard a lot about some of the high profile people who are involved in this like actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. But in terms of the other people involved do we know anything about who they were or what their circumstances were?

FRY: Oh sure. Yeah. I mean there was a Douglas Hodge. He is a former CEO of a huge Newport Beach company, Pacific Investment Management Company or PIMCO. So he's very well known in the Southern California community. But you know this is really run the gamut. There's a lot of people that this has touched a woman that wrote a parenting book series. Her name is Jane Buckingham. She's alleged to have participated in this as well. What we do know what they all have in common is that they're all, you know, extremely well heeled and could afford to allegedly do this.

BRODIE: So does it seem as though these parents were all just concerned about where their kids would be able to go to college and maybe not being able to get into a school that they wanted to go to?

FRY: Yeah that seems like a common element. And you know I'm sure that that's a common element for most parents as their kids are entering school or trying to get into certain colleges. But according to authorities they took it to another level to guarantee their admission.

BRODIE: So has law enforcement talked about who would actually be prosecuted in these cases like are any of the kids do you think they knew about this and were complicit in any way?

FRY: Based on the documents that were filed in court, it looks like some of the children did know what was happening though how much they knew it's not really clear and some of them, you know, were kept in the dark purposefully.

BRODIE: Obviously this is still sort of early going in, all of this breaking, but do we know are these kids going to be allowed to stay in school if you know even though they got in maybe under false pretenses?

FRY: You know that's something that hasn't come out yet. And I'm not really sure about that actually.

BRODIE: And one of the issues that seems to have gained a lot of traction online especially on social media was this idea of maybe some of these kids, who as you referenced come from some amount of money, taking potentially spots in universities from kids who don't come from families with money who maybe were more deserving of those spots. Has there been any discussion sort of in the broader community about that and maybe how schools can try to rectify that situation?

FRY: I think that's going to be a big element of what comes out of this. It has spurred a huge discussion among academia and among a nationwide just the community looking at how colleges can make sure that the process is fair.

BRODIE: Do we know if the schools themselves knew what was going on?

FRY: You know, that's something that's not clear and that's not something that federal officials have alleged at this point. But, based on the documents, it does appear that some members of the universities didn't know coaches athletic directors, etc.

BRODIE: So might just be a question of like how far up the food chain that kind of information went?

FRY: Exactly. And you know like I said authorities have said this investigation is still continuing. So I think that more will come out eventually.

BRODIE: All right. That's Hannah Frye a reporter for The L.A. Times. Hannah good to talk to you, thank you.

FRY: Great talking with you. Thanks so much.

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Mark Brodie is a co-host of The Show, KJZZ’s locally produced news magazine. Since starting at KJZZ in 2002, Brodie has been a host, reporter and producer, including several years covering the Arizona Legislature, based at the Capitol.