Washington: The college admissions bribery investigation that led to charges against 50 people, including chief executives and Hollywood celebrities, has placed a new focus on how US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law got into Harvard.
Jared Kushner, who serves as a top aide to Trump, and his acceptance to the Ivy League school were investigated as part of the 2006 book The Price of Admission, written by ProPublica senior editor Daniel Golden.
The book examined how the nation’s wealthy buy their children into prestigious schools with tax write-offs and other donations. One such donation was made by Kushner’s father, real estate developer Charles Kushner.
Golden wrote a story in 2016, after Trump won the presidency, about his book and specifically a legal $US2.5 million donation that Charles Kushner pledged to Harvard in 1998. It wasn’t long after, Golden said, that Jared Kushner was accepted to the prestigious school.
Golden noted that, at the time, Harvard accepted only one out of every nine applicants and those at Jared Kushner’s high school didn’t believe his grades or test scores were good enough to attend the school.
In response to the allegations, Risa Heller, a spokeswoman for Kushner Companies, told ProPublica that it was “false” that the donation was linked to Jared Kushner’s acceptance.
She said that his parents “are enormously generous and have donated over $US100 million ($141.41 million) to universities, hospitals and other charitable causes”.
She continued: “Jared Kushner was an excellent student in high school and graduated from Harvard with honours.”
While others who made large donations to Harvard had been former students, Golden noted that Charles Kushner had not attended the school.
Golden said he examined why Charles Kushner would have given millions to the school and found that both of his sons enrolled there.
Golden reported that, unlike with other large gifts to the school, Harvard had not sent out press releases announcing the donations. He said he found the donations in Charles Kushner’s finances after subpoenas from federal authorities made them public.
Charles Kushner was convicted in 2005 of tax evasion, making illegal campaign donations and witness tampering.
But the tale of his donation and his son’s acceptance was only one case. The book also examined how others, including the sons of former vice-president Al Gore, were admitted into schools.
Those admissions became the centre of conversation on Tuesday after federal officials announced what they called the nation’s largest-ever college admissions bribery case prosecuted by the Justice Department.
The investigation netted charges against 50 people, including CEOs, prominent financiers, college athletic coaches and actresses such as Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
Federal prosecutors say it was all part of an elaborate conspiracy that involved cheating on the SAT and ACT and parents paying coaches “enormous sums” to get their children into elite universities and colleges by fabricating their athletic credentials.
Huffman, best known for her role on TV’s Desperate Housewives, is accused of paying $US15,000 to a made-up charitable organisation that then helped her daughter cheat on the SATs. Huffman discussed the scheme in a recorded phone call with a co-operating witness, according to the investigation.
Loughlin, who starred in the 1990s sitcom Full House, is also facing the same felony charges – conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Prosecutors say Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, another defendant, paid bribes of $US500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as crew team recruits at the University of Southern California even though neither participated in the sport.
As part of the nationwide conspiracy, coaches agreed to pretend that the children of parents who paid bribes were highly recruited athletes when they didn’t even compete in that particular sport, prosecutors said.
More individuals, including additional parents, could still be charged amid the ongoing multi-state FBI investigation, which was given the code name Operation Varsity Blues by law enforcement officers when it was launched 10 months ago.
The schools – including Yale, Georgetown and Stanford universities, USC, UCLA, the University of Texas and Wake Forest University – are not targets of the sweeping investigation, prosecutors said. And no students were charged. Authorities said in many cases the teenagers were not aware of the fraud.
Others charged included three people who organised the scams, two ACT and SAT exam administrators, one exam proctor, and one college administrator.
Among the parents charged were Gordon Caplan of Greenwich, Connecticut, a co-chairman of an international law firm based in New York; Jane Buckingham, chief executive of a boutique marketing company in Los Angeles; Gregory Abbott of New York, founder and chairman of a packaging company; and Manuel Henriquez, chief executive of a finance company based in Palo Alto, California.
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