College admissions scandal: First group of defendants enter not-guilty pleas

Not guilty pleas were entered Monday by the first group of defendants accused in the college admissions scandal rocking universities across the country, including in Southern California.

A dozen of the 33 defendants appeared before a judge for the first time inside a Boston courthouse.

Among the first 12 defendants: University of Southern California men's water polo coach Jovan Vavic, USC women's athletic director Donna Heinel, and USC women's soccer coaches Ali Khosroshahin and Laura Janke.

The attorney for one defendant, Wake Forest head volleyball coach William Ferguson, proclaimed his innocence.

"No one was admitted to Wake Forest who didn't earn it, as a student and as an athlete," attorney Shaun Clarke said.

Monday's defendants all pleaded not guilty to accusations of an elaborate racketeering conspiracy that was said to include coaches, test administrators and associates of Rick Singer, the alleged ringleader.

Their reported scheme sent shock waves across college campuses.

"It's almost as if you feel a little robbed because you worked so hard to get here and they sort of just bought their way into the school," said Tate Curran, a student-athlete at UCLA.

Prosecutors say Singer raked in $25 million from dozens of wealthy parents, using that money to get their children into elite schools by bribing coaches to recruit them as athletes and rigging tests.

"For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected," said Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney in Massachusetts.

So far, no schools or students have been charged but Yale University has rescinded the admission of at least one student who was caught up in the scandal.

This is far from over. According to court documents, Singer boasted to one parent that more than 750 wealthy families had used his services.

So far, only 33 people have been indicted, and more court appearances are scheduled for other high profile defendants over the next few weeks.
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