BOSTON — Federal prosecutors have sent letters to some college students or graduates whose parents have been implicated in the nationwide admissions bribery and fraud scandal, informing them that they may also be targets in the probe, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Prosecutors sent the letters to young adults believed to have known about the schemes that aimed to help get them into college, that person said.
Such so-called target letters don't mean the students or graduates who received them will face charges. However, they could prompt the recipients to speak to authorities and push parents to plead in the hopes of protecting their children from additional prosecution, said others knowledgeable about the case.
Not all the children who allegedly benefited from the scheme have received target letters, some of those people said.
Court papers indicate some students may have known about admissions scheme.
Though federal authorities have said many of the students who allegedly benefited from the scheme by landing spots at top colleges didn't know about their parents' activities, court papers suggest at least some did. Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said when the charges in “Operation Varsity Blues” were announced a month ago that the investigation was continuing and students remained part of that probe.
“There was a pretty wide range of how parents tried to play this,” Mr. Lelling said at the time, adding that in one case a defendant and his daughter were allegedly on a conference call with the ringleader of the cheating scam.
In another example, the older daughter of one pair of defendants, Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez, allegedly received a score of 1900 out of a possible 2400 on the October 2015 test, up by 320 points from the best mark she had received previously. Mark Riddell, the test-taking whiz who mastermind William “Rick” Singer paid to fix wrong answers for students, told authorities he “gloated” with the girl and her mother about getting away with cheating on the test, according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation affidavit.
Messrs. Singer and Riddell have pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme and are cooperating with authorities. Attorneys for Mr. and Ms. Henriquez declined to comment about whether their older daughter had received a target letter. The daughter couldn't be reached.
Other children of the defendants posed for photos showing their involvement in various sports that they didn't play competitively, like water polo and crew, or were copied on emails detailing the scheme to bribe college coaches.
Prosecutors have already charged 50 people, including 33 parents, with participating in an alleged $25 million conspiracy to get students into selective colleges by arranging for cheating on the SAT or ACT or bribing coaches to designate kids as athletic recruits.
Thirteen parents have agreed to plead guilty, with another in talks to do so, according to court filings, while 19 others have been indicted on conspiracy charges related to money laundering and mail or wire fraud.
Meanwhile, the University of California, Los Angeles, where a soccer coach has been charged with allegedly taking a bribe in exchange for designating a child of one of Mr. Singer's clients as a recruited athlete, said late Saturday that it previously came across Mr. Singer in a separate 2014 investigation of potentially improper activity in student-athlete admissions. The school said it uncovered a possible violation of its policy prohibiting admissions “motivated by concern for financial, political or other such benefit to the University,” and launched a probe in response.
In one case, UCLA granted provisional admission to, and then reversed the offer for, a prospective women's water polo player. Mr. Singer was later identified as an outside college consultant for the young woman's family and was interviewed in the investigation, UCLA said. He allegedly denied telling the girl's family that admission could be won in exchange for a significant donation.
BY MELISSA KORN AND JENNIFER LEVITZ