The College Admissions Scandal Indictment Flunks Out

Last March the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts charged fifty people in a massive college admissions scandal. The defendants include parents, college coaches, test administrators, and the mastermind at the center of it all: William “Rick” Singer, owner of a college admissions counseling company. Singer and some of the coaches have already pleaded guilty. To date, fourteen parents also have pleaded guilty or agreed to do so, including actress Felicity Huffman and prominent attorney Gordon Caplan.

The nineteen parents who are fighting the charges were joined together in a single indictment last month. But I believe that indictment has some serious legal flaws. Investigators have dubbed this investigation “Operation Varsity Blues.” By the time the legal wrangling is over, I think the prosecutors may be singing some blues of their own.

Rick Singer, the man at the hub of the college admissions scandal

The College Admissions Scandal

The case involves two different cheating schemes designed to help students gain admission to elite universities. In the first, parents allegedly paid Singer to help their children cheat on the ACT and SAT college admissions exams. Singer would bribe test administrators to look the other way while his co-conspirator Mark Riddell coached the students on the proper answers or changed their answers after they were done. Parents typically paid Singer between $15,000 and $75,000 for this service.

The second type of scheme involved Singer bribing university coaches to admit unqualified students as recruited athletes. Parents and associates of Singer allegedly created application materials and profiles that falsely portrayed the students as star high school athletes. Parents in these cases paid Singer upwards of several hundred thousand dollars. One family in China reportedly paid Singer $6.5 million to secure their daughter’s admission to Stanford – although those parents have not been charged.

The Parents’ Indictment

All of the parents were originally charged by criminal complaint. Those who did not agree to plead guilty were subsequently indicted together. The indictment describes fourteen different incidents of cheating involving the nineteen defendants, Singer, and his associates (some of the parents are married couples involved in the same incident). The indictment charges that all of the parents, along with Singer and his associates, participated together in two different conspiracies: a conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and a conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Single vs. Multiple Conspiracies

Prosecutors have charged all the parents with being part of the same two large conspiracies. But the indictment demonstrates there were actually fourteen different conspiracies, one for each parent or couple that worked with Singer.

A conspiracy is a partnership in crime. The government must show that a defendant knowingly joined the conspiracy with the intent to further its criminal goals. A defendant does not need to know every detail of the conspiracy, and does not even need to know the actual identity of every other co-conspirator. But to charge defendants together in a single conspiracy, the government must be able to prove that the defendants were at least aware that other co-conspirators existed and that they were somehow mutually dependent.

In a large, far-flung criminal enterprise, sometimes the government charges one big conspiracy when there were actually a number of separate, smaller ones. The leading Supreme Court case on this is Kotteakos v. United States, decided in 1946. The man at the center of that case was Simon Brown, who had become an expert at fraudulently obtaining loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration. He acted as a broker to help a few dozen people wrongfully obtain such loans.

The government ultimately charged thirty-two defendants, including Mr. Kotteakos, with taking part with Brown in one grand conspiracy to defraud the FHA. But although each of the individual defendants had transacted with Brown to obtain their loans, they had no connection to each other at all. The government’s evidence actually showed there were at least eight separate conspiracies, with nothing in common other than that they involved the same kind of crime and Brown took part in all of them.

The Supreme Court ruled that this error in how the conspiracies were charged required the convictions to be reversed. The government had characterized the arrangement of the defendants as spokes on a wheel, with Brown at the hub. But the problem, the Court said, was that there was no rim to enclose the spokes – nothing connected them to each other. And without a rim you did not have a single “wheel” – or a single conspiracy.

The Court concluded that the individual defendants were potentially prejudiced as a result. It noted that with a massive trial of multiple defendants there was a substantial risk that evidence against one defendant would “spill over” and the jury would improperly use it against other defendants as well. As Justice Rutledge wrote:

Guilt with us remains individual and personal, even as respects conspiracies. It is not a matter of mass application. . . True, this may be inconvenient for prosecution. But our government is not one of mere convenience or efficiency. It too has a stake, with every citizen, in his being afforded our historic individual protections, including those surrounding criminal trials.

A wheel needs a rim

The Kotteakos Problem

If I were writing a final exam to test my students’ knowledge of the principles underlying Kotteakos, it would be hard to come up with a better example than this college admissions case. The indictment alleges fourteen different cheating schemes, each involving Singer and one parent or couple. But the different schemes have no connection to each other. Each is like a spoke in a wheel, with Singer at the hub, but there is no rim to connect the spokes. The success or failure of one parent’s scheme had nothing to do with what happened with any other parent. Indeed, they had no reason to know the other parents even existed. This is a textbook Kotteakos problem: the government has charged as a single conspiracy what really should be fourteen  different conspiracy cases.

Like the defendants in Kotteakos, the defendants in the college admissions case are entitled to their own trials. If you are a parent who paid Singer $25,000 one time to cheat on one exam, you don’t want to be in a massive trial with a dozen other parents who paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars and concocted phony athletic profiles for their children. Your individual case is going to look a whole lot worse in that context, and there’s a risk the jury would hold it against you.

This particular flaw likely won’t be fatal to the government’s case. The parents who want to go to trial should be able to move to have their cases severed from each other and prosecuted separately. But it does mean the government is not going to be able to present the entire story of Singer’s years of misconduct with multiple parents in one massive trial, as it would like to do. It’s going to need to proceed in separate cases. And if that means Singer and others end up testifying multiple times,  then with each successive trial there is more prior testimony to impeach them with and a greater likelihood someone will testify inconsistently.

The parents have already raised this issue with the court. Lawyers for a number of them wrote a letter to the chief judge before they were even indicted, claiming the government was “judge shopping” by indicting them all together in order to get all the cases before a particular judge. And one couple, Gregory and Amy Colburn, have already filed a motion to dismiss based in part on Kotteakos. (They are unlikely to get a dismissal on that ground; the most likely remedy is a severance from the other defendants and a separate trial.)

The Money Laundering Charge

The second count in the indictment charges all of the parents with engaging in a single money laundering conspiracy with Singer. In addition to the Kotteakos issue, I believe this conspiracy suffers from a second flaw: the underlying money laundering allegation is legally deficient.

Money laundering prohibits engaging in financial transactions with criminal proceeds in order to disguise where the money came from or otherwise “clean it up” so the funds will appear to be legitimate if they are discovered. Saul Goodman in “Breaking Bad” provided this classic explanation:

In the college admissions case, the parents did not pay the coaches or universities directly. They sent their money to a nonprofit that Singer created called the Key Worldwide Foundation. Singer then used money from the foundation bank account to pay bribes to the coaches and test administrators. He would also send a receipt to the parents for their “charitable contribution,” and many of them used that to claim a tax deduction.

The government has charged that using the foundation account to make the bribe payments disguised the nature and origin of those payments and thus constituted money laundering. In paragraph 272, the indictment says this was designed to “conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of bribe and other payments in furtherance of the fraud scheme.” But concealing the source of bribe payments is not money laundering, unless those payments themselves are criminal proceeds.

The Proceeds Problem

Money laundering must involve dirty money – that’s why it needs to be laundered. Laundering must involve criminal “proceeds,” defined in the statute as property “derived from or obtained or retained . . . through some form of unlawful activity.” An easy way to remember this is that money laundering needs to be a “downstream transaction” – it’s something you do with the money you made from criminal activity once you’ve got that money in your control.

As an analogy, imagine you were starting a business. You wouldn’t consider the seed money that you use to get it off the ground to be “proceeds” of the business. The proceeds would be the money generated by the business once you get it up and running.

The payments by Singer, with money received from the parents, involved “clean” money. As to Singer and the parents, the funds were not money “derived from or obtained” by criminal activity; it was the money used to engage in that activity. Those payments are not money laundering, they are the predicate crimes that will generate proceeds. It’s like the seed money for starting the business. But the government has improperly charged the execution of the predicate crime itself as money laundering.

For the coaches and test administrators, bribe money received would be proceeds obtained through criminal activity that could later be laundered. For the parents, the proceeds of the fraud scheme is actually the college admissions slots that they obtained. But paying the bribes, using clean money, is not a laundering event just because it was done through a separate foundation. Running the payments through the foundation is part of the underlying fraud scheme and may give rise to tax charges for improper deductions, but it’s not money laundering.

There is one allegation in the indictment of international money laundering – money sent across the U.S. border to promote criminal activity. That allegation involves one parent, David Sidoo, who sent money from Canada. Under that money laundering theory the funds do not need to be criminal proceeds, so that one allegation could survive. But if Sidoo’s case gets severed from the rest of the parents, as ultimately seems likely, then I believe the money laundering allegations against all the other parents will not hold up.

The Mail and Wire Fraud Theories

The government has charged two different kinds of mail and wire fraud. Traditional mail and wire fraud requires the government to prove the defendants defrauded the victim of money or property. The other theory, honest services fraud, requires the government to prove the defendants deprived the victim of fair and honest services that someone owed that victim.

Honest services fraud requires a relationship of special trust and confidence that gives rise to the duty of honest services. It’s a common theory in political corruption cases, because politicians are deemed to owe a duty of honest services to their constituents. If a politician accepts bribes or kickbacks, he or she can be charged with defrauding the public of its right to the politician’s honest services. The theory also applies to private sector relationships where such a duty exists, including the duty an employee owes to an employer. An employee who accepts bribes in connection with his or her employment may be charged with defrauding the employer of its right to the employee’s honest services.

The government relies on two different honest services theories in this case. The first is that the university coaches owed a duty of honest services to the universities that employed them and that duty was violated when they took bribes to admit unqualified students. The second is that the test administrators who allowed Singer’s associate to facilitate cheating on the ACT and SAT in exchange for bribes violated a duty of honest services that they owed to the testing companies.

The coaches clearly owed a duty of honest services to the universities, so that won’t be an issue. For the test administrators, it’s a closer call. They apparently are not employees but independent contractors. Normally an arms-length contractual relationship will not give rise to a duty of honest services. The government will have to argue that the testing companies were unusually reliant upon the integrity and expertise of the test administrators, and that gave rise to a fiduciary duty greater than that involved in a typical contractual relationship. That may ultimately hold up, but it will be contested and I don’t think it’s a slam-dunk for the government.

The greater issue when it comes to honest services fraud is going to be proving the parents actually conspired to commit that offense. Honest services is essentially a bribery theory. To enter into a conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, the parents would have to know that bribes were being paid, or at least be willfully blind to that fact. Singer clearly knew that, but it’s far less clear that any of the parents did. Parents may be able to argue they thought Singer was just making hefty contributions to the universities or paying someone to cheat on the tests  but knew nothing about any bribery or honest services violations.

I think the government’s strongest theory is mail and wire fraud involving property. The allegation is that the parents and Singer conspired to deprive the universities of property in the form of valuable admissions slots that could have been given to deserving students. There’s no question the parents knew they were involved in that scheme. They would not need to know all the details concerning the bribes; they knew they were depriving the university of that admissions slot through some deceptive means.

A secondary theory in the indictment is that test scores and the tests themselves were property of the testing agencies and that the defendants defrauded the agencies of that property. That seems shakier to me, particularly the allegation that test scores qualify as “property” for purposes of mail and wire fraud. In their motion to dismiss the Colburns have also challenged this theory.

What Lies Ahead

Prosecutors have indicated that other parents were involved in the schemes, and more charges may be coming. Some of the students involved also have received target letters, indicating they potentially could be charged as well.

As for the cases already pending, expect a lot of legal wrangling. The parents should be able to get their cases severed from each other. Legally, some of the mail and wire fraud charges will likely hold up, but I don’t expect the money laundering charges to survive. Factually, it’s going to vary case by case, and some of the parents are going to be able to mount a strong defense. Prosecutors are going to face some hurdles trying to prove that the parents’ actions were criminal and not merely sleazy.

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When Is Cheating a Crime? The College Admissions Case

On Tuesday, March 12, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts announced his office had filed criminal charges against fifty people in a massive college admissions scandal. Several dozen wealthy parents were charged with paying college admissions counselor William “Rick” Singer a total of about $25 million to fraudulently gain admission for their children to some of the country’s most elite universities, including Yale, Stanford, USC, and Georgetown.  Along with Singer and the parents, a number of university athletic coaches, test administrators, and other participants in the scheme were charged.

This prosecution involves some interesting legal questions and a number of issues that fall into the classic white collar crime “gray area” of conduct that may be reprehensible but not necessarily criminal. Singer and the coaches who accepted personal bribes do not have much of a defense, and Singer and a couple of coaches have already pleaded guilty. But when it comes to the parents, I expect a number of them will mount a vigorous defense and some may well prevail. For the parents, the evidence of immorality and a sense of entitlement is overwhelming. The evidence of criminality – maybe not so much.

The Two Schemes

 Singer was at the center of two schemes, which allegedly went on from 2011 to 2018. He is the founder of The Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key, a for-profit college counseling and preparation service. In 2012 Singer also founded the Key Worldwide Foundation as a non-profit, tax exempt organization.

In the first scheme, parents allegedly paid Singer to help their children cheat on the ACT and SAT college admissions exams. Singer would have the parents change their child’s test location to one of two testing centers where Singer had relationships with test administrators who would accept bribes to facilitate the cheating. Singer would then usually arrange for Mark Riddell, a counselor at a private school in Florida, to travel to the test center, purportedly to “proctor” the students taking the exam. Riddell would either coach the students on the proper answers or change their answers after they were done in order to obtain the test score desired by the parents. Parents typically paid Singer between $15,000 and $75,000 for each such exam, and Singer typically paid Riddell $10,000 per student.

The second scheme involved Singer bribing college coaches to designate students as recruited athletes (thus facilitating their admission) even though the students in question were not qualified. This scheme frequently involved parents and associates of Singer creating phony application materials and profiles that falsely portrayed the students as star high school athletes. Parents made payments either to Singer’s foundation or, in some cases, directly to athletic programs at the universities. Singer would then either pay the coaches directly or make payments to university athletic departments or private sports clubs controlled by the coaches in exchange for the coach’s agreement to sponsor the student for admission.

The Charging Documents

 The cases against the fifty defendants are somewhat oddly broken down into eight different charging documents. Twelve defendants, including most of the coaches involved and the test administrators who accepted bribes from Singer to facilitate the cheating scheme, are charged in one grand jury indictment with a single count of participating in a racketeering conspiracy.

Thirty-two parents who participated with Singer in either the entrance exam cheating scheme, the sports recruitment scheme, or both, were charged in a 200-plus page criminal complaint with a single count each of conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud. The fact that prosecutors charged the parents by complaint rather than by indictment may indicate they hope to secure a quick guilty plea from some of them. Absent that, under the Speedy Trial Act prosecutors would need to indict the parents within 30 days of their arrest, which would be sometime in mid-April.

The remaining six defendants are charged in their own individual indictments or criminal informations (charges filed by prosecutors rather than by the grand jury, usually when there is going to be a guilty plea). Singer, the man at the center of the scheme, has been cooperating with the investigation since last September and has already pleaded guilty to the charges against him. Riddell, the man Singer paid to help students cheat on the entrance exams, began cooperating with investigators this past February. He is also charged individually and likely will plead guilty soon.

Two coaches were charged separately and have already pleaded guilty: John Vandemoer, the former sailing coach at Stanford, and Rudy Meredith, the former head women’s soccer coach at Yale.

Michael Center, the former head tennis coach at UT-Austin, was also charged in his own separate complaint based on a single incident where he allegedly accepted a $100,000 bribe to admit as a tennis player a student who did not play competitive tennis. It’s not clear right now why Center was charged individually instead of as part of the larger indictment, but prosecutors may expect him to plead guilty as well.

Finally, one parent, David Sidoo, a resident of Canada, was charged in a separate indictment for conspiring with Singer and Riddell to have Riddell take the exams for two of Sidoo’s children. Sidoo’s case may have been carved out because it relies on a different mail fraud theory and a different kind of scheme: Riddell allegedly created a fake ID and actually posed as Sidoo’s son to take the exam, rather than helping the son cheat. The case may also face statute of limitations issues, since most of the conduct took place more than five years ago.

The Criminal Charges

Here are the leading criminal statutes and theories used in the case:

Honest services fraud: The leading charge overall is conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud. This is the charge in the massive complaint against the parents, and honest services fraud forms part of the charges in almost all the other cases as well.

In a typical mail fraud case, the defendant is charged with depriving the victim of money or property. But in honest services fraud, the defendant is charged with depriving the victim of the “intangible right of honest services” that someone else owes that victim.  In the 2010 case of Skilling v. United Statesthe Supreme Court held that honest services fraud is limited to cases involving bribery or kickbacks. The theory applies not only to public officials who accept bribes but also to private individuals who violate a special duty of trust and responsibility, such as the duty owed by an employee to an employer, by accepting bribes or kickbacks.

When it comes to the college recruitment scheme, the honest services fraud theory is straightforward. Singer bribed the coaches to admit unqualified students, which deprived the universities of their rights to the fair and honest services of those coaches. As for the entrance exam cheating scheme, the theory is that by bribing the test administrators at the two test locations, Singer deprived the companies that administer the ACT and SAT of their right to the fair and honest services of those individuals.

RICO Conspiracy: The charge in the twelve-person indictment, as well as in a number of the individual cases, is a conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO. The RICO “enterprise” alleged in the indictment is Singer’s two organizations, The Key and the Key Worldwide Foundation, working together. The RICO charges essentially allege that Singer conducted the affairs of this enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity, and that the other defendants conspired to help him do that.

“Pattern of racketeering activity” is a term of art in RICO that refers to a series of specified criminal acts. In this case, the acts of racketeering alleged include honest services fraud and money laundering. (For more detail on RICO and how the charge works, see my post here.)

Tax Fraud Conspiracy: Singer is also charged with a conspiracy to defraud the United States through tax fraud. The government charges that he conspired with various parents to disguise their payments to Singer as tax-deductible contributions to the Key Worldwide Foundation, when the money was actually used to pay bribes and to enrich Singer personally,  As part of the conspiracy, Singer allegedly sent receipts to the parents thanking them for their “donations” and falsely stating that no goods or services were provided in return.

At this point only Singer is charged with tax fraud, but a number of the parents could also end up liable for either criminal or civil tax violations if they took a charitable deduction on their taxes for payments to Singer.

Money Laundering Conspiracy: So far, only Singer and Riddell are charged with a money laundering conspiracy. The allegation is similar to the tax fraud scheme: the claim is that Singer had parents make payments to his tax-exempt foundation and then made the bribe payments from that foundation in order to conceal the actual origin, source, and ownership of the money.

Singer and Riddell are pleading guilty, so the money laundering theory won’t be contested by them. But if, as has been suggested, some parents also end up facing money laundering charges, I think the charge will be subject to challenge. The issue is that the payments by the parents and Singer likely are not unlawful “proceeds” of criminal activity, as required for money laundering. The money parents sent to Singer is “clean” money from lawful sources, and the payments made by Singer are the bribes themselves. That money doesn’t become “proceeds” of bribery until it is in the hands of the bribe recipients.

Simply running money through an account with a different name to disguise where it came from is not money laundering unless that money itself represents criminal proceeds from an unlawful activity. As I noted in this post, prosecutors made a similar error when they first charged the defendants in the NCAA basketball corruption case. When the defendants were arrested the charges included money laundering, based on a similar theory, but by the time the cases were indicted that charge had been dropped. The lack of criminal proceeds is also why, for example, the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels by former Trump attorney Micheal Cohen likely do not constitute money laundering, even though he used a shell corporation to disguise where the payments were coming from.

Obstruction of Justice: Singer alone is also charged with one count of obstruction of justice, because after he was first confronted by the FBI he allegedly tipped off several parents about the investigation.

Possible Defenses and Legal Issues

For those who were paying and accepting bribes directly – the coaches and the test administrators – I don’t see much of a defense. The honest services fraud theory squarely applies, and if the facts are as the government alleges, the defendants would not have much room to argue they did not know their conduct was unlawful.

For the parents, on the other hand, it’s going to be very case-by-case. I can see a number of potential defenses. First, recall that all of the parents are currently charged with conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. That basically means a conspiracy to participate in a bribery scheme. Singer was bribing the coaches to admit the students and was bribing the test administrators for ACT and SAT. But it’s not at all clear from the complaint that the parents knew these bribes were being paid, which would be necessary for them to be guilty of a conspiracy to pay them.

Whenever the parents wrote a check, it was either to Singer’s foundation or to an athletic account at the school, such as the USC Athletic Board. There are no instances of a parent paying a bribe directly to a coach. During the recorded conversations, Singer frequently says things like the money is going to the school or to the athletic program, or is for a “contribution.” He doesn’t spell out that he is actually bribing anyone.

Bear in mind that, before he was caught and began cooperating with the government, Singer’s incentive would have been to assure the parents that what he was doing was legal. Parents would be more likely to participate if they thought the scheme was just shady but not criminal. And it would be risky for Singer to admit criminal conduct to third parties if he didn’t have to. It’s far more likely that Singer led parents to believe he had special connections with the schools and coaches that allowed him to leverage the donations, without telling them the details of any bribes.

There’s an interesting aspect of the case revealed in the lengthy criminal complaint against the parents, where agents tried to close this potential loophole. After Singer began cooperating with the government, the FBI had him make recorded phone calls to a number of the parents with whom he allegedly had carried out the schemes before the FBI was onto him. During the calls, Singer told the parents his foundation was being audited by the IRS. He tried to get the parents to admit their knowledge of past misconduct and said he wanted to make sure they were on the “same page”. Singer would say something like, “Of course, I’m not going to tell the IRS that we actually used the money to get your son accepted for football when he didn’t really play football. I’ll just tell them it was a donation to benefit underprivileged kids.” The parents, who must have thought this was an extremely odd phone call, frequently respond with just “OK,” “yeah,” or “uh-huh.” Some of the calls are not particularly incriminating. They might leave room for parents to argue they didn’t really understand what Singer was rambling on about.

Again, a great deal of the alleged bribe money actually went to the schools, not the coaches directly. For example, in the case against Vandemoer, all of the money is alleged to have been paid to the Stanford sailing program, not to Vandemoer himself. A number of parents wrote checks to entities like the USC Athletics Board. If parents are writing checks made out to the schools and athletic programs, they might have had reason to believe the school knew about and approved what was happening. They could claim they saw little difference between what Singer was able to achieve and situations where wealthy parents give a substantial donation to a university, or pay for a new building, and their child then gets admitted. Parents will claim Singer convinced them that, through his connections, he could achieve the same thing for them with a smaller donation by fudging the system for testing or admitting athletes, and that the schools were willing to look the other way in exchange for the money.

Willful blindness is sometimes called the “ostrich doctrine”

Willful Blindness

If a parent tries to claim he or she didn’t know what Singer was really doing, how credible that will be will depend on the facts and evidence in each case. A doctrine called “willful blindness” might come into play, where the government can prove knowledge by showing a defendant deliberately closed his eyes to what was going on around him in an effort to avoid learning the truth. A prime example of this could be one point in a call recorded between Singer and parent Gordon Caplan, when Caplan says, “I don’t even want to know what you guys do.”

Of course, parents who were involved in creating phony athletic profiles for their students knew they were doing something wrong. But not everything that’s wrong is a crime. They may argue that Singer convinced them the school was willing to go along with it in exchange for the substantial donation they were making. There’s no evidence the schools were directly harmed financially – in many cases the school athletic program received a donation, and once admitted the students paid tuition.

Similarly, parents involved in helping their students cheat on the ACT or SAT clearly knew they were doing something wrong. But they may argue that cheating on a test, although wrong, should not be a federal felony. The schools and testing agencies may have been deceived, but the law generally draws a distinction between being deceived and being defrauded. If as a result of the scheme the schools received not only tuition payments but substantial cash contributions, a parent may argue they were not really defrauded at all. Perhaps the appropriate remedy is disgrace, expulsion, and loss of tuition money already paid, but not a criminal prosecution.

One could argue that the schools were deprived of valuable slots on the athletic teams or in the freshman class that could have gone to deserving students, and that deprivation amounted to fraud. But that’s not how the government has charged the case, at least at this point. Prosecutors have relied on the honest services fraud conspiracy. That will require proof that the parents knowingly participated in the bribery schemes – and based on what is in the charging documents so far, that may be difficult to prove.

Parents may actually be more vulnerable on tax charges, if they wrote off their payments to Singer’s foundation as a charitable deduction. Those could be criminal charges or merely civil penalties, depending on the facts of each case. And prosecutors may seek to add money laundering charges against some parents, but those charges will be vulnerable to the “proceeds” defense I discussed above.

Many of the parents are hiring high-powered defense attorneys – they can afford the best, of course. There may be some quick guilty pleas, but I suspect a number of the parents will fight the charges and may well prevail. Their conduct was clearly reprehensible. It’s less clear, at least at this point, that it was criminal.

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