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Image / Living / Culture

Here’s a first look at the new documentary behind the 2019 College Admissions Scandal


By Jennifer McShane
14th Mar 2021
Here’s a first look at the new documentary behind the 2019 College Admissions Scandal

Using real conversations recreated from FBI wiretaps, Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal takes you right into the heart of the bizarre events.

Netflix has dropped a preview of a new must-see documentary into the methods used by Rick Singer, the man at the centre of the shocking 2019 college admissions scandal, to persuade his wealthy clients to cheat an educational system already designed to benefit the privileged.

Using an innovative combination of interviews and narrative recreations of the FBI’s wiretapped conversations between Singer and his clients, Operation Varsity Blues offers a rare glimpse into the enigmatic figure behind a scheme that exposed the lengths wealthy families would go to for admission into elite colleges. Actresses Felicity Huffman and Full House star Lori Loughlin were among people charged in a downright bizarre $25 million college entrance cheating scheme in the US.

More than 200 FBI agents worked on the case (code-named Operation Varsity Blues) uncovering documents showing that dozens of parents paid thousands in bribes to get their children into top colleges like Yale and Stanford.

What exactly happened?

Multiple reports said at the time some of the parents allegedly involved spent between $200,000 to $6.5 million to ensure that their children received guaranteed admission at the schools of their choice, John Bonavolonta, FBI special agent in charge, said.

The scheme’s mastermind, William Rick Singer, pleaded guilty when charged, admitting, “I am absolutely responsible for it. I put everything in place. I put all the people in place and made the payments directly.” He then apparently wore a wire to expose the scheme.

Uncovered was a network of wealthy parents who “paid thousands of dollars to a California man who boosted their children’s chances of gaining entrance into elite colleges, such as Yale and Stanford, by paying people to take tests for their children, bribing test administrators to allow that to happen, and bribing college coaches to identify the applicants as athletes.”

Who was involved?

Desperate Housewives star Huffman, along with Full House actress Loughlin, were among the most well-known public figures facing charges; Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, were accused of paying $500,000 in “exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC (University of Southern California) crew team,” while Huffman and her husband, William H. Macy, were accused of paying a $15,000 bribe to get their daughter a higher SAT score.

Huffman was taken into federal custody and served prison time; her husband was not indicted and Loughlin and her husband pleaded guilty to their role in the sweeping scandal, admitting that they forked over $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California.

Social media was awash with memes at the time, when “Aunt Becky,” a reference to Loughlin’s character on Full House, began trending almost immediately after news of the scandal broke.

You can watch the trailer for the Netflix documentary below: