Netflix’s latest documentary Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal takes a deep dive into the 2019 controversy that charged 33 wealthy families for bribing their child’s way into attending prestigious universities like Yale and Stanford.
At the center of all of this madness was self-proclaimed life coach William “Rick” Singer. He is thought to have helped over 750 students unethically gain college admissions to their “dream schools.”
Who is Rick Singer?
Rick Singer is the man behind the jaw-dropping scandal. As shared in the documentary, he typically presented himself as an athleisure-wearing academic coach. One interviewee shared, “He was always dressed like he just came from a basketball court.”
He had a tumultuous upbringing, both of his parents were divorced and he found himself attending multiple colleges. Singer also previously worked as a college and high school basketball coach but was let go from the latter for being too aggressive with his players.
Journalists described him as not being “personable” or “charismatic.” Singer was a man who looked out for nobody but himself — that was revealed by the end of the scandal as after he was caught, he struck a deal with the FBI to gain confessionals from all of his clients.
Throughout his time committing fraud, he befriended many college administrative and admissions officials. He was thought to have bribed the indicated Ex-Yale Soccer Coach Rudy Meredith with over $870k worth of “donations.”
Portraying Singer in Operation Varsity Blues is Stranger Things’ Matthew Modine through a series of dramatic reenactments.
What is The Key?
Singer started his scamming scheme through his business The Key (also known as The Edge College and Career Network) where he served as the CEO and founder. The business was advertised to be a “Private Life Coaching and College Counseling Company.” According to Rolling Stone, the now-taken-down website made it clear that it catered toward affluent families.
Written on the website was, “the Key’s clientele is all referral based; consequently, the quality of the service provided to many of the world’s most renown [sic] families and individuals has provided an incredible foundation for The Key to grow its offerings worldwide.”
The scammer was so invested in the website, he even submitted a reality television show audition about his job and the pressure of competitive college admissions. The audition tape was released as an exclusive on the TMZ website.
Singer also created The Key Foundation as a fake charity used to embezzle money. His clients would make large donations to “the non-profit” which he would use for bribery purposes, or to pocket. Many of the listed charities on the now-deleted website either didn’t exist or claimed they never worked with Singer.
What did the documentary creators have to say about him?
Creators Chris Smith (director) and Jon Karmen (writer, producer) are best-known for being the brains behind the Netflix Fyre Fest documentary. Two years later, they returned to the platform to deliver Operation Varsity Blues.
When Smith and Karmen were asked about how the transcripts helped uncover lesser-known things about Singer and the families he worked with, Karmen described the man as a “grifter.”
He shared, “It was interesting to learn how Singer would work these parents. He was a grifter in the sense that he would often make them think there was no other way to get their kids into these schools without using his scheme.”
Smith added to his comment, expressing, “The transcripts gave us insights into Rick’s character that were otherwise hard to come by. There wasn’t a lot available online. It was hard to find associates who knew him well to interview.”
Director Smith went on to say that they had to “piece together a person” whose truth wasn’t very public or well-known.
Where is he now?
Singer has pled guilty to multiple felony counts of money laundering and fraud. He also pled guilty to obstruction of justice as he was caught warning a number of his clients about the investigation after he began cooperating with the FBI.
As the documentary stated, Singer has yet to appear in court for sentencing. According to Insider, he could face up to 65 years in prison and a $1.35 million fine.
Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is currently streaming on Netflix.