13 March 2019

Willkie Farr chairman gets the blues

Gordon Caplan caught up in FBI's 'Operation Varsity Blues' for allegedly faking his daughter's disability in a college cheating scandal.

Prosecutors allege Mr Caplan paid $75,000 to fraudulently inflate his daughter’s college entrance exam scores. Mr Caplan is one of 32 parents, including business leaders and celebrities, charged in a major scheme to get their children into elite universities through bribery and cheating.

‘Operation varsity blues’

The complaint, filed yesterday at the conclusion of the FBI probe dubbed ‘Operation Varsity Blues,’ alleges that between last June and December, Mr Caplan worked with middleman William Singer to guarantee that his daughter, who scored in the low 20’s on her practice ACT, would end up with a 32 after her answers were doctored. Mr Singer admits he took millions in bribes to help the rich buy access to the best schools for their progeny, and then decided to cooperate with the FBI against his clients. Mr Caplan, a private equity attorney named ‘dealmaker of the year’ by American Lawyer in 2018, and the other parents have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. The evidence against Caplan, as outlined in the complaint, includes detailed excerpts of wiretapped phone calls with Singer.

Had ‘to be stupid’

In the first documented phone call between the two men, on June 15, Mr Singer outlined the scheme. Mr Caplan would take his daughter to a psychologist and get her tested for a learning disability, which would get her extra time on the test and a separate room away from other students. Then the family would fly to Los Angeles on the pretense of a recruiting visit to justify the teen taking the test at one of the schools where Singer had bribed test administrators. After Mr Caplan’s daughter took the exam, a paid-off proctor would doctor her answers to ensure she scored in an agreed-upon range, according to the complaint. In a follow-up call, Mr Singer explained Mr Caplan’s daughter had ‘to be stupid’ when she was getting tested for a learning disability to ensure she got the extra time. Mr Caplan and his daughter met with the psychologist in Los Angeles to obtain the learning disability diagnosis, but the diagnosis was rejected twice by the ACT administrators, according to the complaint. At the behest of law enforcement officials, the organisation approved Mr Caplan’s daughter for extra time in early November, which led to the sting operation and eventual charges.