Elisabeth Kimmel, who sold KFMB San Diego to Tegna in February 2018, was among those swept up in the college admissions scandal that broke on Tuesday. She is accused of mail fraud in connection with bribery schemes aimed at getting her daughter and son into elite colleges. Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Kimmel had pleaded guilty to the charges. That is incorrect. It was William Rick Singer, the mastermind of the admissions conspiracies, who pleaded guilty.
Former San Diego broadcaster Elisabeth Kimmel was among 50 people charged yesterday for their roles in criminal college admissions schemes involving bribery of admissions officials and coaches, falsifying applications and cheating on entrance exams.
At the center of the scandal was 58-year-old William Rick Singer, who ran an admissions counseling and prep business. Between 2011 and 2019, the indictment says, parents paid him approximately $25 million to get their children into prestigious universities including Yale, Stanford, the University of Southern California, Georgetown, Wake Forest and Texas though a variety of illegal schemes.
Singer pleaded guilty yesterday to racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice.
Kimmel was among those charged with mail fraud. She is identified in the criminal complaint as the “owner and president of a media company” with homes in La Jolla, Calif., and Las Vegas. She cashed out of broadcasting in February 2018, selling CBS affiliate KFMB San Diego and a companion AM-FM combo to Tegna for $325 million.
The scandal made big news because it ensnared two Hollywood stars — Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Some 30 parents face charges in connnection with the schemes.
“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling. “For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected.”
Kimmel is accused of conspiring with Singer and his associates to bribe the tennis coach at Georgetown University to sign off on the fiction that Kimmel’s daughter was a “ranked” tennis player and to bribe an associate athletic director at USC to falsely assert that her son was “one of the top pole vaulters” in California.
To support the son’s application, Singer’s associates dummied up an athletic profile of the boy, including a fake picture of him soaring over a pole vaulting bar.
Such credentials helped the two students secure places at the universities.
Kimmel’s daughter matriculated at Georgetown in 2013 and graduated in 2017. “She was not a member of the tennis team during her four years at Georgetown,” the complaint says.
USC admitted Kimmel’s son in March 2018.
For Singer’s services, the complaint says, Kimmel allegedly paid him $425,000, funneling the money from her family charity to a charity that prosecutors say Singer set up to launder his fees.
The Georgetown tennis coach and the USC associate athletic director were also among the indicted.