BOSTON (Reuters) - The former co-chairman of the New York corporate law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher was sentenced on Thursday to one month in prison for his role in what prosecutors say is the largest college admissions scam uncovered in the United States.
That is substantially less than the eight-month sentence federal prosecutors in Boston had sought for Gordon Caplan after he pleaded guilty to paying $75,000 to have a corrupt test proctor secretly correct his daughter’s answers on the ACT college entrance exam.
U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani said Caplan, 52, was among the “least culpable” of the multiple parents charged in the vast investigation.
Caplan told the judge he was “deeply ashamed” of his actions and for contributing to the broader perception that the U.S. college admissions system “is rigged for the rich.” He was also ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.
So far, 52 people have been charged by prosecutors with participating in the scheme, in which wealthy parents conspired with a California college admissions consultant to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure the admission of their children to top schools.
“This was not a victimless crime,” Caplan said. “The real victims of this crime are the kids and parents who played by the rules of the college admissions process.”
William “Rick” Singer, the consultant, pleaded guilty in March to charges that he facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and helped bribe sports coaches at prominent universities, such as the University of Southern California and Yale, to present his clients’ children as fake athletic recruits.
The 35 parents charged include executives and celebrities, such as “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced last month to 14 days in prison, and “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin, who is awaiting trial.
Prosecutors said Caplan in 2018 arranged through Singer to have an associate pose as an ACT proctor for his daughter’s exam to correct her answers at a test center Singer controlled through bribery.
“Despite having resources to provide his daughter all legal means for success, Gordon Caplan insisted on buying her the one thing that was not for sale: a perfect ACT score,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen said in court.
The proctor was Mark Riddell, a former counselor at a Florida private school who pleaded guilty in April to secretly taking SAT and ACT college entrance exams in place of Singer’s clients’ children or correcting their answers.
Caplan’s lawyer, Joshua Levy, stressed that his client’s daughter knew nothing about the fraud.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; editing by Grant McCool and Bill Berkrot