A former women’s soccer coach at Yale University pleaded guilty Thursday to taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for pretending applicants were recruits to boost their chances of getting into the school.
Rudy Meredith, 51, is the third person to plead guilty in the wide-ranging school admissions scandal in which authorities say wealthy parents paid an admissions consultant to rig their children’s test scores and bribe coaches at sought-after schools. Prominent parents charged with paying bribes include actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin .
Meredith, who resigned from Yale in November, began cooperating with the FBI last year after investigators set up a sting in a Boston hotel room and caught him soliciting a $450,000 bribe from a father. He helped investigators unravel the wider bribery scheme by leading them to the admissions consultant, who later agreed to work with investigators and recorded his conversations with parents.
Meredith, wearing sunglasses and a dark suit, said nothing as he and his lawyers fought through a swarm of reporters to leave the federal courthouse in Boston after the hearing. His attorneys declined to comment.
The FBI’s investigation into the admissions scam began after a Los Angeles executive who was under investigation in Boston for securities fraud told authorities that Meredith offered to designate the executive’s daughter as a recruit in exchange for cash, officials say.
In April 2018, the executive and Meredith met in a Boston hotel room that was bugged by the FBI.
Authorities say the coach told the father he would help his daughter get into Yale in exchange for $450,000. The executive gave Meredith $2,000 in cash, and another $4,000 was wired to Meredith from a bank account controlled by the FBI, according to court documents.
During the meeting, Meredith also mentioned the admissions consultant, Rick Singer, which was the first time that authorities had heard his name, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen told the judge Thursday.
Meredith began cooperating that same month with investigators, who recorded phone calls between the coach and Singer that revealed the extent of the bribery scheme.
“We had learned through the telephone calls that this obviously wasn’t related to a single bribe or single coach but rather a scheme, a scheme to defraud universities,” Rosen said.
Investigators obtained Meredith’s bank records, which showed that Singer had paid the coach more than $860,000, Rosen said.
In one case, authorities say Meredith accepted a $400,000 bribe to get an applicant admitted as a recruit even though he knew she didn’t play competitive soccer.
Prosecutors say the consultant, Singer, sent Meredith a fake athletic profile that described the student as the co-captain of a prominent club soccer team in southern California. The applicant’s relatives paid Singer about $1.2 million, officials say.
Yale said Monday that it has rescinded the admission of a student linked to the bribery scandal. The school has said it believes Meredith gave “fraudulent athletic endorsements” for only two applicants. The other was denied admission despite Meredith’s endorsement, the school said.
Singer has pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy. Meredith pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy charges.
Another coach, Michael Center, also appeared in Boston’s federal court Thursday but didn’t enter a plea. Center, who was the men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin, is accused of accepting nearly $100,000 to help a non-tennis playing applicant get admitted as a recruit. Once enrolled, the student never played. An email was sent to Center’s attorney Thursday.
Several other coaches pleaded not guilty on Monday, including tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who is accused of getting $2.7 million in bribes to designate at least 12 applicants as recruits to Georgetown and was the personal tennis coach for former first lady Michelle Obama and her daughters.
Loughlin and Huffman are set to make their initial appearances in Boston federal court next week. They have not publicly commented on the allegations.
SOURCE: ALANNA DURKIN RICHER, AP