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Trump pardons USC father in college admissions scandal

Trump pardons father involved in college admissions scandal after he paid $200,000 to fixer Rick Singer and $50,000 to the school to get his daughter into USC as a fake athlete

  • Miami financier and developer Robert Zangrillo was one of 73 people to receive a pardon from Donald Trump, according to a statement from the White House 
  • Zangrillo pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, but prosecutors say he paid $200K to fixer Rick Singer
  • Authorities said Zangrillo also paid $50,000 to an account controlled by a USC administrator to get his daughter Amber into the university as a fake athlete
  • Amber Zangrillo’s application to USC said she rowed about 44 hours a week, 15 weeks a year, according to complaint charging her father with fraud conspiracy 
  • White House said Zangrillo ‘is well-respected business leader and philanthropist’

President Donald Trump has pardoned a father who was accused of paying $50,000 to the University of Southern California and $200,000 to fixer, Rick Singer, to help get his daughter into school as part of the 2019 college admissions scandal. 

Miami financier and developer Robert Zangrillo was one of 73 people to receive a pardon from Trump, according to a statement from the White House.  

Zangrillo pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, but prosecutors say he paid $200,000 to bribery mastermind Singer and $50,000 to an account controlled by a USC administrator to get his daughter Amber into the university as a fake athlete. 

President Donald Trump has pardoned Robert Zangrillo (pictured in March 2019) who was accused of paying $50,000 to the University of Southern California and $200,000 to fixer, Rick Singer, to help get his daughter into school as part of the 2019 college admissions scandal

Zangrillo pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, but prosecutors say he paid $200,000 to Singer and $50,000 to an account controlled by a USC administrator to get his daughter Amber (pictured together) into USC as a fake athlete

Zangrillo pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, but prosecutors say he paid $200,000 to Singer and $50,000 to an account controlled by a USC administrator to get his daughter Amber (pictured together) into USC as a fake athlete

Singer, the ringleader of the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scam, advised several rich white families to lie about their child’s race and falsely claim to be racial minorities to boost their chances of getting into elite colleges. 

He also misrepresented clients as recruited athletes.

Amber Zangrillo’s application to USC as a transfer student said she rowed an average of 44 hours a week, 15 weeks a year, according to a complaint charging her father with fraud conspiracy.

But prosecutors say she had never rowed competitively.

Singer also allegedly falsified the young woman’s grades, getting one of his employees to retake online courses for her, including an art history course in which she had received an F.

But the White House said in a statement that Zangrillo’s daughter ‘did not have others take standardized tests for her and she is currently earning a 3.9 GPA at the University of Southern California’. 

Singer (center), the ringleader of the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scam, advised several rich white families to lie about their child's race and falsely claim to be racial minorities to boost their chances of getting into elite colleges

Singer (center), the ringleader of the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scam, advised several rich white families to lie about their child’s race and falsely claim to be racial minorities to boost their chances of getting into elite colleges

Zangrillo was one of 73 people to receive a pardon from Trump (pictured Wednesday), according to a White House statement

Zangrillo was one of 73 people to receive a pardon from Trump (pictured Wednesday), according to a White House statement 

Singer pleaded guilty to four felonies in March 2019 and cooperated with federal prosecutors in Massachusetts who uncovered his scam.

He helped more of his clients’ children into USC than any other school, and of the 34 parents charged by the US attorney in Massachusetts with fraud and money laundering crimes, 19 have children who attended or are still enrolled at USC.

Prosecutors say a USC administrator was also involved in steering Amber Zangrillo into the school, to which she was accepted after previously being rejected. 

She was admitted not as a rowing recruit but as a ‘special interest’ student who had been flagged by the athletics department, USC’s dean of admissions said in an affidavit included in the university’s filing. 

The White House also said ‘Zangrillo is a well-respected business leader and philanthropist’.

Following the accusations, Zangrillo launched a legal battle against the university and his lawyers requested a subpoena for wider access to USC records detailing the role of wealth in admissions.

They claimed such actions would prove that Zangrillo’s alleged bribe to USC was ‘indistinguishable from the vast numbers of other donations by parents of students’.

In the June 21, 2019, filing, Zangrillo’s lawyers demanded a trove of records relating to how the private university flags some applicants as ‘VIP’ or ‘special interest’, and the percentage of applicants admitted within a year of their families donating $50,000 or more. 

Amber Zangrillo was not charged with a crime and is currently enrolled at USC. 

Other parents who have been charged include Full House actress Lori Loughlin who served a two-month prison sentence, and actress Felicity Huffman who served a 14-day prison sentence. 

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