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Businessman Devin Sloane Sentenced In College Admissions Scandal


In federal court in Boston today, a second parent was sentenced in the college admissions bribery scandal. Businessman Devin Sloane got four months in prison, and he'll have to pay a $95,000 fine. He'll also have to perform 500 hours of community service. Sloane was sentenced after a federal investigation into a nationwide bribery and cheating scheme that the FBI calls Operation Varsity Blues. Kirk Carapezza of member station WGBH was in the courthouse for the sentencing, and he is with us now.

Hi, Kirk.


SHAPIRO: Give us the details of what Sloane did.

CARAPEZZA: Sloane funneled more than $250,000 through a bogus charity that was then used to bribe a coach at the University of Southern California. He also admits that he staged photos and paid to have his son's image photoshopped into water polo pictures, even though his son never played the sport competitively.

SHAPIRO: So he was one of those parents who claimed his son was an athlete when, in fact, his son was not.

CARAPEZZA: That's right. He went as far as to order equipment on Amazon, including a Speedo and a water polo ball. And he put his son in the family pool to stage photos that were then doctored to gain admission to USC. In court, the government said Sloane's participation in the scheme did not end at, quote, "the edge of his family's infinity pool."

SHAPIRO: (Laughter).

CARAPEZZA: Sloane used his dead mother as a prop for a fake donation and expressed outrage when high school counselors questioned why his son, who did not play water polo, was being recruited to play the sport.

SHAPIRO: Wow. Well, you were there in the court today as the sentence was handed down. How did Sloane react?

CARAPEZZA: Sloane choked up, and he said he understands many see this case as one about privilege and arrogance. And he said he thinks a lot about that now, and it repulses him. Sloane also said he thought he was doing what was best for his son. Now, the federal judge openly wondered whether parents like Sloane were really doing this for their own status.

SHAPIRO: He is the second parent to be sentenced in this case. The actress Felicity Huffman was the first. Seems like he got a much harsher sentence, right?

CARAPEZZA: That's right. Earlier this month, the same judge sentenced Huffman to two weeks in prison for paying $15,000 to correct - to have a ringer correct her daughter's SAT answers. Sloane got a harsher sentence because his actions were much more severe. We spoke with Northeastern University law professor Daniel Medwed, and he says these first two sentences set the market in the case.

DANIEL MEDWED: And I think there's reason to believe that the others might get more time. The higher the money, the more egregious or blameworthy the conduct.

SHAPIRO: You know, Kirk, so much of the media coverage of this case has focused on the celebrity defendants. But there were 34 other parents indicted in the case. So what does Sloane's sentence signal about what their possible fate could be?

CARAPEZZA: Right. One of the security guards at the courthouse today told me they refer to Felicity Huffman as the face that launched a thousand cable TV satellite trucks. But Devin Sloane's actions, I think, are much more representative of what other parents did. And his sentence gives us a better idea of how much time they're likely - they'll likely get. Interfering directly with the school's admissions process, like Sloane and other parents did, is going to bring stiffer sentences.

SHAPIRO: When you talk with college leaders and parents, do you think that this scandal has had a long-term impact on the confidence people have in the fairness of the admissions process?

CARAPEZZA: Yeah, in many ways, I think this scheme shows what happens when our celebrity culture collides directly with our country's obsession with selective college admissions. And there's a new survey out this week from Inside Higher Ed and Gallup that finds most college admissions leaders worry people have lost faith in the fairness of the process. And there's real concern among administrators that this case has distorted the public's view of how this all works.

SHAPIRO: That's Kirk Carapezza of member station WGBH in Boston.

Thanks a lot.

CARAPEZZA: Thanks, Ari. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kirk is a reporter for the NPR member station in Boston, WGBH, where he covers higher education, connecting the dots between post-secondary education and the economy, national security, jobs and global competitiveness. Kirk has been a reporter with Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis.; a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad. Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway. You can follow Kirk on Twitter @KirkCarapezza.