Mother accused of paying for son to cheat through Georgetown classes is charged in college admissions scam

Posted at 7:51 AM, Dec 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-10 07:51:35-05

A California woman paid over $9,000 to have a person affiliated with Rick Singer’s college counseling business take online classes for her son so he could graduate Georgetown University, according to the Department of Justice.

Karen Littlefair, 57, of Newport Beach, will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud as part of a plea deal announced Monday, according to court documents. Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of four months in prison, one year of supervised release, a fine of $9,500 and an order to pay restitution.

WASHINGTON, – MARCH 12: The campus of Georgetown University is shown March 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. Georgetown University and several other schools including Yale, Stanford, the University of Texas, University of Southern California and UCLA were named today in an FBI investigation targeting 50 people as part of a bribery scheme to accept students with lower test scores into some of the leading universities across the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Ken Julian, Littlefair’s lawyer, told CNN “My client has taken the earliest opportunity to take responsibility for her conduct.”

Littlefair is the 53rd person to be charged in the sprawling college admissions scam first announced in March. Singer was the mastermind of a brazen scheme to cheat on standardized tests and bribe college coaches in order to help wealthy parents game the admissions system. He has pleaded guilty to several charges and has been cooperating with prosecutors.

Littlefair paid Singer’s college counseling business, known as “The Key,” to have an employee complete online classes in her son’s name, the criminal information states. She ultimately paid Singer’s company about $9,000 in exchange for an employee taking four classes, and Littlefair’s son graduated from Georgetown in May 2018, prosecutors said.

CNN is reaching out to Georgetown for comment. Officials learned of potential misconduct related to a graduate student’s online coursework during an internal probe launched after the Justice Department revealed the college scam case, spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak told USA Today and The Washington Post. The school is taking steps to fortify security of online classes, she said.

The university hired an independent party to audit and strengthen the integrity of its athletic recruiting process, Georgetown officials said in March, after a former tennis coach was charged in another facet of the college cheating scandal.

‘The experience was a nightmare’

As part of the Georgetown scheme, Singer wrote to Littlefair on June 1, 2017, that “we have someone to take the classes” and that he would “let you know what it will take to complete so we can bill,” the court documents state. She paid $6,197 to The Key on August 4, 2017, for two online classes offered by Georgetown, the documents state.

One of the classes required video conferences with the professor. Littlefair wrote that her son would be out of the country and that Singer’s employee “should have a stand in for [my son] that is highly briefed.” The Key associate confirmed she would “take care of the meeting” if the son was unavailable by using a “fellow male colleague” to stand in for Littlefair’s son, the documents state.

Littlefair also sent an email asking Singer to do “one more online course” in spring 2018 for credit at Georgetown, and the Key associate then secretly took an online class in her son’s name offered by Arizona State University. The credits were then sent to Georgetown and credited to Littlefair’s son on his academic transcript, the court documents say, helping him graduate.

In April 2018, Singer’s company sent her an invoice for $3,000. She responded that she thought she’d be given a “discount” because the “grade [Key associate 1 earned] was a C and the experience was a nightmare!” according to the criminal information.

Singer replied that he would not discount the invoice because the “process was a nightmare for all.” Littlefair then paid The Key $3,000, the documents state.