The fourteen parents contesting charges in the college admissions scandal, including 11 with USC ties, filed a motion in federal court Wednesday to dismiss their case, arguing that it should not be heard in Massachusetts District Court.
The memorandum supporting the motion stated that the Operation Varsity Blues parents’ alleged crimes did not occur in Massachusetts and argued that the government did not have grounds to indict the parents as a group. According to the memorandum, the only common factor all the parents shared was the involvement of scheme organizer William “Rick” Singer.
“The government has attempted to create venue in this District by lumping defendants together in a single conspiracy, alleging cherry-picked acts that are unrelated to the conspiracy’s objective, and fabricating ties to this District through the unilateral conduct of a government Cooperator,” the memorandum read.
Ten of the parents’ cases had no connection to Massachusetts aside from conspiring with Singer, who made calls related to the college admissions scheme and sent a check to senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel while residing in Massachusetts, according to court documents.
In a separate motion filed Wednesday, the defense contended that the parents’ involvement in the admissions scheme did not merit the charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The defendants referenced ACT, Inc.’s policy that indicates scores are the property of the test-taker to argue that the actions of the parents in the scandal did not meet the criteria for fraud committed against the testing companies.
“The Government’s theory — that standardized test scores are ‘property’ of the testing companies and that cheating on a test is therefore within the scope of the mail and wire fraud statutes — would represent an alarming expansion of federal criminal law,” the motion read. “It would mean that almost any conceivable form of cheating on an exam, even copying off a neighbor’s answer sheet, could constitute a federal felony punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment.”
The defendants also asked that the honest services fraud charge be dropped because employees of the testing companies are not legally bound to act in the companies’ best interests, which they said rendered the allegations of fraud invalid.
Fourteen parents pleaded not guilty to charges in the college admissions case and will stand trial in Boston federal court. All the parents have motioned for charges to be dismissed.
Trials for the first group of parents who opted to contest charges are set to commence Oct. 5, with jury selection beginning Sept. 28. The coronavirus outbreak will not affect trial dates, federal judge Nathaniel Gorton stated in an order filed last month.