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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – A Miami real estate developer charged in a sweeping, national college bribery case was granted bail of half a million dollars during an appearance in Miami federal court.
Robert Zangrillo went before the judge on Tuesday who also gave him specific travel restrictions.
His lawyer, Jason Hernandez, said future hearings will be held in Boston.
Zangrillo allegedly conspired to bribe athletic department officials at the University of Southern California to designate his daughter as an athletic recruit to facilitate her admission.
Zangrillo, founder and CEO of a Miami-based private investment firm Dragon Global, is charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud and Honest Mail Services, according to prosecutors.
According to the complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida, Zangrillo paid a bribe to get his daughter into the University of Southern California in 2017 after her initial college application was rejected.
The scheme was on the mind of Miami-Dade Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho
As he recognized a student Wednesday who is getting ahead the old fashioned way: Through hard work.
Ten year old Ryan Ramirez, who suffers from diabetes, has started a charity to raise awareness and money about the disease through selling self-designed socks.
“That’s the type of message we ought to bring to our community” said Carvalho. “At no point should entitlement, privilege, or wealth substitute for hard work.”
Carvalho says the district provides CAP advisors who specialize in helping students get into the college of their choice and find ways to pay for the schooling.
The alleged mastermind behind the scheme, 58-year-old William “Rick” Singer, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a variety of charges for organizing the scheme, which investigators dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” Singer is the founder of Edge College & Career Network.
Parents would pay Singer between $15,000-$75,000 to either have someone take the standardized test for their children or have someone correct the answers after the fact.
The second part of Singer’s scheme was to bribe college coaches and athletics officials. In exchange, they would recommend to admissions officials that certain students be accepted, even if the student didn’t play the sport and had false athletic credentials.
College coaches do not explicitly decide who gets accepted into their university. But they do recommend to the admissions office certain recruited athletes to be accepted.
Singer disguised the bribe payments he received from clients as contributions to his sham charity Key Worldwide Foundation, prosecutors said.
Zangrillo is accused of working with the ‘cooperating witness’ who convinced him that he could secure his daughter’s admission to USC as a transfer student by arranging for her to be recruited onto the USC crew team, even though she did not row competitively, according to the indictment.
According to the indictment, Zangrillo’s daughter’s “transfer application was submitted to USC on or about February 1, 2018. In contrast to her earlier application, which made no reference to rowing, the second application falsely stated that she rowed crew at a club for an average of 44 hours per week for 15 weeks per year, and that she was taking classes at a number of schools, including Santa Monica College, Rio Salado College, and the University of Colorado at Boulder.”
Zangrillo was told by the ‘cooperating witness’ that the USC crew coach had agreed to designate his daughter as a recruit, provided that “[y]ou guys help us.”
Court documents list the coach as saying, “Okay, I will take her. You guys help us, we’ll help you.”
Zangrillo also reportedly paid to have someone secretly take classes for his daughter and submit those grades on a new application to USC.
In September, 2018, Zangrillo reportedly wired $200,000 to one of the KWF charitable accounts and mailed a check for $50,000 to the “USC Women’s Athletics,” according to the indictment.
US Representative Donna Shalala said she’s asked Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, Chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, to consider a hearing into the admissions procedures of selected higher education institutions.
“The American people deserve transparency to determine whether these are a few bad apples or if the barrel is rotten,” she said in a statement.
Shalala, former President of the University of Miami, Hunter College, and Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said greed and “naked ambition” has “stained the reputation of higher education.”
“While the recent indictments have made it clear that a few bad actors are both in and out of some of our finest institutions, in the end, the questions of systemic flaws in admissions must be examined.
Higher education receives substantial resources from the federal government. Therefore, we in Congress have a responsibility to examine at the very least the admissions process, structure and culture. It is irrelevant whether the bad actors were parents, coaches or staff. This is about the fundamental integrity of higher education,” she said in a statement.
In total, nine college coaches, two SAT/ACT administrators, one test proctor, one administrator, and 33 parents are now facing charges.
Actress Felicity Huffman and Loughlin are among those charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
According to prosecutors, a cooperating witness told Huffman he controlled a testing center and would arrange for a third party to proctor her daughter’s SAT and secretly correct her answers afterward. Huffman allegedly paid $15,000 for her oldest daughter and began the process for her second child but ultimately abandoned the plan because she was worried a fixed score would “set off alarm bells.”
Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, allegedly agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 to have their daughters designated as recruits for the USC crew team, even though they did not participate in crew. Both of the couple’s daughters were accepted to USC.
Giannulli has also been charged.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.)