Alleging they have been harmed by the college admissions fraud rocking the nation’s elite, a Rancho Santa Margarita mother and son are suing the scheme’s mastermind, his Newport Beach company and foundation and seven universities.
Julia Bendis, who is a matchmaker and dating coach, and her son Tyler Bendis, a Saddleback College student, are among eight plaintiffs in an amended complaint filed Thursday in the federal court of Northern California. They are seeking class-action status on behalf of all qualified students and their parents who paid application fees but were rejected by universities that admitted unqualified students through The Key scams.
The Key is the nickname of Edge College & Career Network, which is named as a defendant in the suit along with its founder William “Rick” Singer, his phony Key Foundation charity, USC, Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, San Diego, Wake Forest and Texas at Austin universities.
As part of the federal Operation Varisty Blues prosecution in federal court in Boston, Singer pleaded guilty Tuesday to money laundering, racketeering, obstruction of justice and tax evasion. As a cooperating witness for the government, the 58-year-old admitted to bribing college coaches and a USC athletic department official and paying off SAT exam proctors to get wealthy teenagers seats at top-tier universities.
Tyler Bendis was a pole vaulter on his school’s track team and had a 4.0 grade point average and good test scores when he applied to UCLA, Stanford and the University of San Diego University of California San Diego. (Julia Bendis says the complaint is incorrect about the San Diego school her son applied too.) He and his mother had paid admissions fees of $50 to $100 to each university, but none accepted Tyler.
“At the time the fees were paid, the plaintiffs were unaware of the college bribery scheme and the unfair admissions process,” reads their complaint. “Had plaintiffs known that the system was warped and rigged by fraud, they would not have spent the money to apply to the school. They also did not receive what they paid for—a fair admissions consideration process.”
Similar complaints are made by the other plaintiffs: a Stanford student who hails from San Diego; a Middlesex County, New Jersey, father and his son, who attends Rutgers; a Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana, mother and her daughter, who attends Tulane University; and a former Monument, Colorado, resident who last month was named to the University of Alabama President’s List because of her 4.0.
Lauren Fidelak, the Tulane student, was so upset upon being rejected by USC and UCLA—despite her 4.0 and 34 out of 36 on the ACT standardized test—that she suffered an emotional breakdown and had to be hospitalized in Boston, alleges the complaint.
The suit was filed in the federal district of the Stanford student, Kalea Woods, whose application was rejected by USC despite her scores of 32 on the ACT and 2,100 on the SAT.
In other Operation Varsity Blues news:
*Jennifer Kay Toy, an Oakland teacher who claims her son Joshua did not get into many of the schools involved in the admissions scandal case, filed a $500 billion class action suit in San Francisco County Superior Court.
*Operation Varsity Blues defendants Douglas Hodge and Michelle Janavs, two parents charged in the federal probe, resigned as members of the board of trustees for the private Sage Hill School in Newport Beach. Hodge, the 61-year-old former CEO of the Newport Beach-based PIMCO investment firm, allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Singer and his various associates to get his daughters into USC and Georgetown as fake athletic recruits. Janavs, a Newport Beach resident and former executive in her family’s food manufacturing business, allegedly paid large sums to get one daughter into USC as a competitive beach volleyball player when she wasn’t and through cheating on the ACT, something she is also accused of arranging on behalf of another daughter, who was to enroll in college in the fall. She would now be barred from USC, according to the university, and the status of her older sister is under review. Hodge and Janavs have pleaded not guilty in federal court.
*Full House‘s “Aunt Becky” Lori Loughlin has been dropped by the Hallmark Channel, which had considered the Operation Varsity Blues defendant its marquee star. She was actually on the set of a Hallmark project in Canada when news of admissions scandal arrests broke. Loughlin was arraigned Wednesday and released on a $1 million bond. Meanwhile, the Sephora beauty products company cut ties with Olivia Jade Giannulli, the daughter of Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, who started his Mossimo clothing line on Balboa Island. Also an Operation Varsity Blues defendant, Giannulli and Loughlin allegedly paid Singer $500,000 to get Olivia Jade and her younger sister into USC, which he also had attended.
*Remember William McGlashan from our report “Loaded Parents Implicate Themselves and College Admissions Scammers Over Phone”? He laughs at Singer’s suggestion that the father provide a photo of his son’s face to superimpose over an image of a football kicker or punter because it will improve the boy’s chances of getting into USC. “Okay. Okay. Let me look through what I have,” says McGlashan in a secretly recorded phone call. “Pretty funny. The way the world works these days is unbelievable.” Well, how the private-equity giant TPG works is to fire McGlashan, who founded the firm’s “social impact funds.” “Bill McGlashan has been terminated for cause from his positions with TPG and Rise [Fund II LP] effective immediately,” reads a company statement. “After reviewing the allegations of personal misconduct in the criminal complaint, we believe the behavior described to be inexcusable and antithetical to the values of our entire organization.” McGlashan, who partnered on projects with U2’s Bono, sent the TPG board a note stating he resigned and is “deeply sorry this very difficult situation may interfere with the work to which I have devoted my life,” adding, “there are aspects of the story that have yet to emerge that I wish I could share.”
*University of California President Janet Napolitano has ordered an internal investigation into any involvement UC campuses may have had in the scandal.
*NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana was named by Singer as one of his clients. The father of four children, Montana is not accused of any Operation Varsity Blues crime but he did feel compelled with the revelation to tweet the following: “Mr. Singer’s company provided nothing more than minimal consulting services to our family, like so many other families, with the college application process. Fortunately our kids were able to pick from a number of schools to attend due to their hard work and their merit. Thanks.”
*The Wall Street Journal reports that a Los Angeles financial executive, who was under investigation in a “pump and dump” securities fraud case similar to that depicted in The Wolf of Wall Street, tipped federal authorities to the admissions scheme in hopes of leniency at sentencing. Morrie Tobin, a Yale grad and father who resides in the Larchmont neighborhood, reportedly told the FBI that the women’s soccer coach at his alma mater solicited bribes to get his daughter into the Ivy League school. The coach is presumably Rudy Meredith, who resigned from his post in November and was recently charged in connection with Operation Varsity Blues. Tobin agreed to a plea deal in November and is currently awaiting sentencing.
*Singer, who has been released from custody on a $500,000 bond, is due back in court June 19 for sentencing. He faces a maximum 65 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.