A California woman was charged and has agreed to plead guilty as part of a sweeping college admissions cheating scheme that has resulted in charges against dozens of parents and others, federal prosecutors said this week.
Karen Littlefair, 57, of Newport Beach, was accused of paying $9,000 to have someone from the company of the scheme’s alleged mastermind, William “Rick” Singer, take online courses so that her son could graduate from Georgetown University, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts said in a statement Monday.
Littlefair will plead guilty at a later date to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, prosecutors said.
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That charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, but prosecutors said they will recommend a sentence of four months in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $9,500 and restitution.
A lawyer for Littlefair, Kenneth Julian, said his client has “taken the earliest opportunity to take responsibility for her conduct,” The Associated Press reported.
Littlefair is the latest person charged in the scheme. Prosecutors in March announced charges against 50 people as a result of the FBI investigation called Operation Varsity Blues, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. The employee for Singer’s company completed four classes for her son at Georgetown and elsewhere, prosecutors said.
Huffman, a one-time Oscar nominee and the wife of actor William H. Macy, a one-time Oscar nominee and the wife of actor William H. Macy, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and honest services fraud in May for paying $15,000 to Singer to cheat on daughter Sophia Grace Macy’s SAT in 2017. She was sentenced to 14 days in prison and served her sentence and has been released.
Loughlin, known for her role in “Full House,” and her fashion-designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are fighting the charges. They were among those hit with a new bribery charge in October, and they pleaded not guilty in November.
Littlefair’s son graduated from Georgetown in May of 2018 using the credits from the online courses taken by an employee of Singer’s business, prosecutors said.
Georgetown declined to comment about any possible disciplinary action to the AP on Monday but said that the school can revoke degrees in cases of major misconduct.
Singer has pleaded guilty and is cooperating in the government investigation. He wore a wire for the FBI in the case.
In some of the cases, wealthy parents paid to have their children’s scores boosted or tried to get them admitted as fraudulent athletic recruits, or both, officials have said.
A Newport Beach woman has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, admitting she plotted with William “Rick” Singer, the consultant at the center of the college admissions scandal, to have an employee take online classes for her son and submit them to Georgetown.
Karen Littlefair will plead guilty by Jan. 17 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to a plea agreement signed in November and unsealed Monday. She acknowledged paying Singer $9,000 for one of his employees to take four online courses for her son, a Georgetown student.
“My client took the earliest opportunity to take responsibility for the conduct set forth in the plea agreement,” said her lawyer, Kenneth B. Julian. “She’s doing the right thing, early.” He declined to comment further.
Littlefair is the 36th parent charged in the admissions scandal by the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts. Beneath the threat of new charges, all but 16 have pleaded guilty. Most of the parents who have maintained their innocence — a group that includes the actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer — have been charged with additional felonies and now face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, money laundering and bribery.
Singer has pleaded guilty to four felonies and cooperated with the government. He is awaiting sentencing.
Unlike the other parents implicated in Singer’s scam, Littlefair isn’t alleged to have bribed college coaches to misrepresent her son as an elite athlete; nor did she pay a test administrator to tamper with his exams, prosecutors say. Instead, she has admitted paying Singer to have an employee take online courses in her son’s place to help him graduate from Georgetown.
Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of four months in prison, 12 months of supervised release and a $9,500 fine, according to her plea agreement.
Littlefair, a Newport Beach socialite who has hosted fundraisers for Republicans Jeb Bush and Kevin McCarthy at her Lido Isle home, at one point asked Singer for a discount because his employee had earned her son a C in one course, charging documents say. “The experience was a nightmare!” she wrote in an email.
Singer told her he wouldn’t cut the $3,000 price because the “process was a nightmare for all.”
Littlefair’s son graduated from Georgetown in May 2018 “based, in part, on the academic credits fraudulently earned by” Singer’s employee, the charging documents say. The employee, a woman, wasn’t identified. The courses she took for Littlefair’s son were offered by Georgetown and Arizona State University.
Prosecutors allege that Mikeala Sanford, another of Singer’s employees, facilitated the fraud by helping Littlefair iron out the logistics of having someone other than her son take his classes.
One online course offered by Georgetown required video conferences with the professor. Because her son was out of the country, Littlefair told Sanford and the unidentified Singer employee that they “should have a stand-in for [my son].”
Sanford was previously charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering and fraud. She has pleaded not guilty.
When determining this year’s playoff field — LSU, Oklahoma, Ohio State, and Clemson were all locked as the teams set to reach the College Football Playoff (CFP). The only question remaining for selection committee members was what the seeding would be.
Ohio State entered Saturday as the No 1 seed. However, LSU’s beatdown of the No.4 ranked Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC championship game allowed them to leapfrog the Buckeyes and claim the top spot.
LSU players celebrate after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. LSU won 37-10. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Both teams were undefeated during the regular season, with Ohio State adding to their 19-game winning streak by defeating No. 10 ranked Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday.
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Ohio State players celebrate the team’s 34-21 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship NCAA college football game, early Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Due to their stronger win on Saturday and decided by the CFP selection committee members on Sunday — No. 1 LSU is set to face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. No. 2 Ohio State will play No. 3 Clemson in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.
“Our goal was to go to the SEC Championship and win it; that was one of our goals,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron told ESPN on Sunday. “… But we’re not done yet. That wasn’t our final destination. I’m very proud of our offense, I’m very proud of our defense and all our coaches, but we still have some work to do.”
The semifinal games are scheduled to take place on Dec. 28. The winners will advance to the College Football Playoff National Championship game on Monday, Jan. 13, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Jan 8, 2019; San Jose, CA, USA; Detailed view of the 2019 College Football Playoff championship trophy at a press conference at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. Clemson defeated Alabama 44-16 to win its second national title in three years. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports – 11961694
Based on their records, this field projects as one of the strongest in the history of the College Football Playoff. For the first time ever, there are four Power 5 conference (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) champions represented in the playoff field and three of those teams are undefeated.
OHIO STATE RALLIES TO BEAT WISCONSIN 34-21 FOR BIG TEN CROWN
Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) is seen following the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Clemson won 62-17. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
The Oklahoma Sooners were the only team to lose a game this season.
Oklahoma running back Kennedy Brooks (26) celebrates with offensive lineman Creed Humphrey (56) after rushing for a touchdown against Baylor during the first half of an NCAA college football game for the Big 12 Conference championship, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)
LSU is a 10-point favorite over Oklahoma, while Clemson — the previous champion — is a 2-point favorite against Ohio State, according to the opening lines at Caesars Sportsbook.
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ESPN’s Football Power Index projects Ohio State as having a 35 percent chance to win the title. LSU is second at 29 percent with Clemson right behind them at 28 percent. Oklahoma has the lowest projected chance to win the title at just 9 percent.
Two men are guilty of sexually assaulting and drugging a 24-year-old woman over several hours at the College Street Bar in downtown Toronto three years ago, a jury found Saturday after deliberating for four days.
The jurors could not agree on whether bar owner Gavin MacMillan, 44, and bar manager Enzo DeJesus Carrasco, 34, forcibly confined the woman at the bar on the night of Dec. 14, 2016 and whether DeJesus Carrasco raped her at his apartment the next morning. They acquitted DeJesus Carrasco on a charge of sexual assault where he was accused of repeatedly penetrating the complainant with his fingers when they were alone at the bar without her consent.
After the jury announced their verdict, both men appeared stunned. MacMillan later wiped away tears.
Crown Rick Nathanson said they are very happy with the result and that the complainant is relieved. “(We are) grateful first to the complainant, I think this is an apt case for the term survivor, who showed tremendous strength and courage through all of this. She seemed more motivated, frankly, out of concern for the community than for herself.”
He also thanked the jury for their hard work in a case that involved “difficult and troubling evidence” and requested that the court ensure they were aware of counselling supports available to jurors.
Since the complainant said she could remember little about what happened on the night of Dec. 14, 2016, the central evidence in the case was several hours of graphic video obtained from the College Street Bar’s security cameras. The video, however, does not have audio, and what can be seen on it was described in dramatically different ways by the Crown and defence.
The defence said the video shows the two men sexually dominating the complainant at her explicit request. They said she then faked her memory loss and lied about being sexually assaulted because she didn’t want her boyfriend to see her bruises and find out she cheated.
The Crown argued the video shows a woman being given alcohol and cocaine until she was disoriented and hovering in and out of consciousness, then being overpowered by the two men and forced to perform painful and humiliating sexual acts over several hours.
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After the jury verdict, Nathanson sought to have bail for both men revoked. MacMillan was permitted to remain on bail, but under a strict house arrest. DeJesus Carrasco was handcuffed and taken into custody with a bail hearing set next month. He faces two future trials on three counts of sexual assault involving three women.
His lawyer Uma Kancharla said, after the verdicts, that her client maintains his innocence in all the charges and they are considering grounds for appeal.
MacMillan’s lawyer Sean Robichaud declined to comment. MacMillan walked out of the courthouse by the waiting television cameras but did not respond to questions.
A sentencing hearing has been set for the end of January. The Crown has said they will be seeking “significant penitentiary sentences.” The maximum possible sentence for gang sexual assault is 14 years, with the Crown likely to seek a sentence of between four to eight years, said defence lawyer Daniel Brown, who has written a book about sexual assault law and was not involved in the case.
The charges the jury could not reach a verdict on were stayed by the Crown.
During deliberations the jury asked questions about the law around consent and forcible confinement. A jury does not give reasons for its verdicts and jurors’ deliberations are kept secret by law, making it impossible to know what evidence or reasoning they relied on to come to their decision.
The trial is one of several in recent years that show the challenges posed when a complainant may be too intoxicated to consent but has little memory of what happened. Such cases often rely on the testimony of other witnesses or video.
In this case, the jury watched video footage from the time the complainant entered the bar at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 14 — a Wednesday — until she left just before 6 a.m. the next morning with DeJesus Carrasco.
The complainant testified she has a hazy memory of the night, and could only recall bits and pieces of what happened. She said she did remember being forced to perform oral sex on MacMillan, being penetrated by both men and wanting desperately to leave but her body not co-operating.
The defence argued she was faking her memory loss to avoid answering difficult questions.
Both MacMillan and DeJesus Carrasco testified in their defence and said the sexual activity was entirely consensual and they had no concerns about her being too intoxicated to consent.
Dambrot instructed jurors that they could find the men guilty of gang sexual assault if they found the complainant was not consenting, too intoxicated to consent or unconscious at any moment during the several hours of sexual activity that night. The jurors did not have to agree on the same moment or reasons, as long as they all found one that satisfied them beyond a reasonable doubt.
The complainant would not have capacity to consent, Dambrot said, if she was intoxicated enough not to know the sexual nature of the act, the identity of her partner or partners or that she had the right to say no.
“Mere proof of intoxication does not in and of itself negate capacity to consent,” he said.
If the jury found the complainant was unconscious at any point, she would automatically lack capacity to consent. Both accused have said she never lost consciousness.
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The jury was also told to consider whether the accused could have an honest belief that the complainant was consenting and whether they took reasonable steps to determine she was consenting. Dambrot noted a reasonable person would take more care in ascertaining consent before invasive and dangerous sexual activity with a stranger.
The complainant had been shown brief clips of the video by the Crown prior to the trial, so that she would not have to see them in court for the first time, prosecutor Rick Nathanson said in court. He said it was extremely difficult to decide how much of it was necessary to show her, given that she cannot remember much of it and she found it extremely upsetting to watch.
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When she saw a clip of her staggering through the bar and crashing into tables at around 11:45 p.m. she said it was clear why her memory was so impaired.
“That right there itself — how would I remember that?” she said, testifying via video from another room in the courthouse.
“Obviously I wouldn’t remember that,” she said. “It looks really messed up.”
The sexual activity began about twenty minutes later.
The jury heard that the woman went to the College Street Bar that night to meet a friend who was doing a bartending course through MacMillan’s Bartender One training school. DeJesus Carrasco said she was flirtatious and making lewd comments, though the exact comments he alleged she made were ruled inadmissible.
The video shows her being served two cocktails and five whiskey shots, though it was disputed how much she consumed and how big the shots were.
She had three of the shots with the two men in the span of ten minutes around 10 p.m.
When the complainant and DeJesus Carrasco were in the bar alone around 10:20 p.m., the Crown alleged he sexually assaulted her by repeatedly penetrating her with his fingers without her consent or while she was incapacitated.
The jury acquitted DeJesus Carrasco of this count of sexual assault.
At around 10:55 p.m. the two left the bar together for about half an hour. DeJesus Carrasco said they got food and then he left the complainant alone with the College Street Bar unlocked while he got a drink at another bar.
When he returned to the College Street Bar several minutes later to meet a cocaine dealer he saw her swaying on the sidewalk outside.
He asked what happened and said she told him in a normal voice: “I’m fine but sometimes the pills screw up my head.” He didn’t ask her what the pills were and it is unknown what the pills are.
They went into the bar at about 11:30 p.m. and the security video shows the complainant staggering into the bar, lurching into a table and sinking into a chair. She remained in the chair barely moving with her head slumped forward for ten minutes. DeJesus Carrasco said she never lost consciousness and continued to ask for cocaine.
He said a text message he sent to the drug dealer shortly before entering the bar that he “had a girl pass out” wasn’t literal, nor was a text to MacMillan that the complainant was “dead dead dead.”
DeJesus Carrasco pulled the complainant over to the bar when the cocaine was ready, slapped her face repeatedly and positioned her head over the cocaine. After this she got up and staggered out of the bar, crashing into tables on her way out. She came back in two minutes later, still walking very unsteadily. MacMillan came back to the bar and the complainant is seen having three lines of cocaine in 13 minutes.
The sexual activity began minutes later at about 12:10 a.m. and continued until shortly before 6 a.m.
The defence argued that the complainant’s inability to walk was only temporary and that she appeared to improve rapidly, showing that her state was not caused by alcohol. They said she was being held up and supported by MacMillan because she wanted to be submissive and controlled, not because she was too intoxicated to stand or hold herself upright on her own.
The video shows the complainant and DeJesus Carrasco leaving the bar shortly before 6 a.m. They both got in a taxi, which she said she thought was taking her home, but which actually took them to his basement apartment. She said he raped her in his bedroom, though her memory of that time is hazy and she had no memory of anyone being in the apartment. DeJesus Carrasco said there were two other people in the apartment at the time and that she was the one who wanted to have intercourse.
The jury was unable to come to a verdict on this charge, which has now been stayed.
The complainant called 911 to report being sexually assaulted later that day. She testified that there has been lasting damage to her knees and jaw from what happened to her.