Rick Singer, the man behind a multimillion-dollar college admissions bribery scandal, used a picture of Oregon State University’s Weatherford Hall to promote his crooked scheme — even though OSU officials say he has no connection to the school.
Singer, who ran a consulting firm called the Edge College & Career Network and a nonprofit foundation called The Key Worldwide, is at the heart of a nationwide conspiracy that used fraud, cheating and bribery to help the children of wealthy families gain admission to elite universities, according to federal prosecutors.
The 58-year-old Newport Beach, Calif., resident pleaded guilty on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Boston to charges of racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the government and obstruction of justice.
Dozens of others have been charged in the case, including Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin and athletic coaches at Georgetown, Yale, Stanford, Wake Forest, UCLA, the University of Texas and the University of Southern California.
Prosecutors have not filed charges against anyone connected with Oregon State University, and there has been no suggestion that OSU is caught up in the scandal.
Nevertheless, a photograph of Weatherford Hall, the stately brick structure that houses OSU’s entrepreneurship program and serves as a dormitory, features prominently on the Twitter profile page for The Key Worldwide. Prosecutors say the foundation was essentially a front that took in at least $25 million in bribe money disguised as charitable contributions.
Officials at Oregon State say they’re mystified.
“We have no knowledge of any affiliation with Mr. Singer or this case,” said OSU Vice President Steve Clark, the university’s chief spokesman.
Clark added there is no record that Singer ever attended the university and no indication that any students have been improperly admitted to OSU as part of Singer’s fraudulent schemes.
The photo used on The Key Worldwide Twitter page, he said, is a generic image that may have been purchased from a stock photography agency, and the university has received no payment for its use.
“Weatherford is an iconic building,” Clark said. “It is frequently photographed by people associated with the university and by members of the public. As near as we can determine, that photograph was not taken by anyone affiliated with the university.”
Because Weatherford is a public building, its image can be used generically by members of the public, and Oregon State has no proprietary rights to the photo. However, Clark said, the university intends to contact Twitter and request that the image be taken down.
“We think it is within our rights to ask that it not be utilized as it is on this website,” he said.
Even though Oregon State has not been implicated in the scandal, university administrators are taking it as a wake-up call, according to Clark, who said a meeting has been scheduled to review the safeguards in place to protect the integrity of OSU’s admissions process.
“This is a very troubling and shocking matter for any university or college in the nation and for all universities and colleges in the nation,” he said.
No one answered the phone number listed on the website for The Key Worldwide on Wednesday, and the voicemail system was not accepting messages.