U.S. college admissions scandal sparks $500B lawsuit

The U.S. college admissions scandal that erupted this week has triggered private litigation accusing rich, well-connected parents of buying spots for their children at prestigious schools, and keeping children of less wealthy parents out.

A $500-billion US civil lawsuit filed by a parent on Wednesday in San Francisco accused 45 defendants of defrauding and inflicting emotional distress on everyone whose “rights to a fair chance at entrance to college” were stolen through their alleged conspiracy.

In the largest known college admissions scandal in U.S. history, federal prosecutors on Tuesday said a California company made about $25 million by charging parents to secure spots for their children at elite schools, including Georgetown, Stanford and Yale, by cheating the admissions process.

Jennifer Kay Toy, a former teacher in Oakland, Calif., said she believed her son Joshua was not admitted to some colleges, despite his 4.2 grade point average, because wealthy parents thought it was “OK to lie, cheat, steal and bribe their children’s way into a good college.”

Toy did not say if any colleges admitted her only child, or where Joshua might have won admission but for any chicanery.

Her complaint was filed in California Superior Court. Toy’s lawyer did not immediately respond on Thursday to a request for comment.

Food and beverage distributor Gregory Abbott leaves a New York court Tuesday after appearing on bribery charges connected to the case. He and his wife are accused of paying someone to take college entrance tests for their daughter. (Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

Fifty people, including 33 parents and many athletic coaches and business executives, were criminally charged in the scandal, which is being overseen by prosecutors in Boston.

Celebrities accused of participating

Among the 50 are the actress Felicity Huffman, actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, and TPG private equity partner William McGlashan Jr.  Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, has not been charged.

Actress Felicity Huffman, left, and Lori Loughlin are among 50 people indicted in a sweeping U.S. university admissions scam. (Lisa O’Connor, Tommaso Boddi/AFP/Getty Images)

The three who were charged are among the defendants in Toy’s lawsuit, as is William Singer, the accused mastermind of the scheme.

Prosecutors said Singer, since 2011, used his Edge College & Career Network and an affiliated nonprofit to help prospective students cheat on college admission tests and bribe coaches to inflate their athletic credentials.

Singer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to racketeering charges.

William (Rick) Singer, 58, leaves a federal courthouse in Boston on Tuesday. He’s accused of being the mastermind behind what’s being described as the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. Singer pleaded guilty to several charges. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Also on Wednesday, two college students filed a lawsuit against the University of Southern California, Yale University and other colleges where prosecutors say parents paid bribes to ensure their children’s admission.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court in San Francisco and alleges the students were denied a fair opportunity for admission.

Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods say they were denied a fair opportunity to apply to Yale and USC.

They say the alleged scheme allowed “unqualified students” to be admitted to “highly selective universities.”

The lawsuit also named the University of California, Los Angeles, Wake Forest, Georgetown University and others.