Paly parents charged in college entrance fraud scheme

Federal investigation into exam cheating and falsified athletic recruitment implicates dozens

The Paly Voice

The parents of a current Palo Alto High School student have been charged with “conspiracy to commit mail fraud” and “honest services mail fraud” in a broad federal college admissions investigation announced today by the United States Department of Justice.

The wide-scale $25 million dollar scheme — which has resulted in charges against 33 parents and over a dozen coaches, test administrators and others — involves “bribing college entrance exam administrators to allow a third party to facilitate cheating on college entrance exams, in some cases by posing as the actual students, and in others by providing students with answers during the exams or by correcting their answers after they had completed the exams,” according to an affidavit released by the Department of Justice’s Massachusetts division this morning.

Participants in the scheme made payments “typically structured as purported donations to the KWF [Key Worldwide Foundation] charity,” the affidavit states.

The case involving the Paly family seems to fit a similar mold. According to the affidavit, the parents participated in the standardized testing cheating scheme on behalf of their son. A third party involved in the scheme purportedly proctored an SAT test for the student at the West Hollywood Test Center on March 10, 2018, according to the affidavit.

The document alleges that the student’s father transferred about $25,000, largely in stock, to the Key Worldwide Foundation, a non-profit organization, in 2017.

The chief executive of KWF, William Singer, who began cooperating with authorities in September and pleaded guilty to four charges today, reportedly “bribed the test administrators to allow a third-party” to enter testing facilities. Singer also helped with ACT testing cheating and falsifying athletic records, the affidavit says.

Under the direction of the authorities, Singer contacted the Paly student’s parents in October with a phone call that was consensually recorded, the affidavit states.

The phone call with the student’s father includes the following excerpt:

SINGER: So what I’m telling the IRS is that — I’m not — well, let me say this. What I’m not telling the IRS is that [your son] — that … [Cooperating Witness 2] [inaudible] took the test for [your son] at [the West Hollywood Test Center].

FATHER: No, I got that. Yes. No, I got that.

SINGER: All right. But what I am telling them is that your payment essentially went to our foundation to help underserved kids.

FATHER: Right. Okay.

SINGER: So I just want to make sure that our stories —


SINGER: — are aligned.

It is unclear whether the Paly student was aware of the alleged cheating scheme. “In many instances, the students taking the exams were unaware that their parents had arranged for this cheating,” the affidavit states. In some cases, according to the affidavit, parents engaged in elaborate plans to convince their children of the legitimacy of the scores. For example, in one situation, a parent requested a copy of an SAT her son could take at home “so that he would believe he had taken the test,” the affidavit states.

The Paly parents charged in the investigation did not return a request for comment. The student responded to a phone call and said he could not comment.

The Paly Voice is following this story and will continue to post updates.

Editors’ Note: The investigation is unsealed and the student’s parents’ names have been made public on a number of major news outlets, including The New York Times and the Palo Alto Weekly. Because the student’s involvement in the alleged cheating scheme is unclear, The Paly Voice has chosen to withhold his name, as well as his parents’ surname.

Soumya Jhaveri, Nisha McNealis, Jevan Yu and Eleanor Krugler contributed to this story.