Mother of Georgetown student next charged in admissions scam
A California woman paid over $9,000 to have a person affiliated with Rick Singer’s college counseling business take online classes for her son so he could graduate Georgetown University, according to the Department of Justice.
Karen Littlefair, 57, of Newport Beach, will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud as part of a plea deal announced Monday, according to court documents. Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of four months in prison, one year of supervised release, a fine of $9,500 and an order to pay restitution.
“My client has taken the earliest opportunity to take responsibility for her conduct,” Ken Julian, Littlefair’s lawyer, told CNN.
Littlefair is the 53rd person to be charged in the sprawling college admissions scam first announced in March. Singer was the mastermind of a brazen scheme to cheat on standardized tests and bribe college coaches in order to help wealthy parents game the admissions system. He has pleaded guilty to several charges and has been cooperating with prosecutors.
Littlefair paid Singer’s college counseling business, known as “The Key,” to have an employee complete online classes in her son’s name, the criminal information states. She ultimately paid Singer’s company about $9,000 in exchange for an employee taking four classes, and Littlefair’s son graduated from Georgetown in May 2018, prosecutors said.
Georgetown University said it launched an internal investigation after Singer’s scheme was made public in March. As part of that review, the university learned of potential misconduct relating to one graduated student taking online courses. Georgetown said several policy changes are underway that focus on online coursework at Georgetown.
In addition, Georgetown indicated that the charge against Littlefair could impact her son’s degree.
“When the University learns of a potential serious violation of the Honor System after a student has graduated, the Honor Council will investigate and adjudicate the case and may recommend sanctions up to and including the revocation of the student’s degree,” Georgetown said.
The university hired an independent party to audit and strengthen the integrity of its athletic recruiting process, Georgetown officials said in March, after a former tennis coach was charged in another facet of the college cheating scandal.
‘The experience was a nightmare’
As part of the Georgetown scheme, Singer wrote to Littlefair on June 1, 2017, that “we have someone to take the classes” and that he would “let you know what it will take to complete so we can bill,” the court documents state. She paid $6,197 to The Key on August 4, 2017, for two online classes offered by Georgetown, the documents state.
One of the classes required video conferences with the professor. Littlefair wrote that her son would be out of the country and that Singer’s employee “should have a stand in for [my son] that is highly briefed.” The Key associate confirmed she would “take care of the meeting” if the son was unavailable by using a “fellow male colleague” to stand in for Littlefair’s son, the documents state.
Littlefair also sent an email asking Singer to do “one more online course” in spring 2018 for credit at Georgetown, and the Key associate then secretly took an online class in her son’s name offered by Arizona State University. The credits were then sent to Georgetown and credited to Littlefair’s son on his academic transcript, the court documents say, helping him graduate.
In April 2018, Singer’s company sent her an invoice for $3,000. She responded that she thought she’d be given a “discount” because the “grade [Key associate 1 earned] was a C and the experience was a nightmare!” according to the criminal information.
Singer replied that he would not discount the invoice because the “process was a nightmare for all.” Littlefair then paid The Key $3,000, the documents state.
CNN’s Evan Simko-Bednarski and Laura Ly contributed to this report.