THE INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANTS
A. JANE BUCKINGHAM
32. Defendant JANE BUCKINGHAM is a resident of Los Angeles, California. BUCKINGHAM is chief executive officer (“CEO”) of a boutique marketing company based in Los Angeles.
33. In or about June 2018, BUCKINGHAM agreed to make a purported charitable donation of $50,000 to KWF, in exchange for which CW-1 arranged to have CW-2 take the ACT on behalf of BUCKINGHAM’s son at the Houston Test Center the following month.
34. Thereafter, CW-1 made arrangements with Williams to allow CW-2 to purport to proctor the ACT for BUCKINGHAM’s son. In return, CW-1 promised Williams that he would send her money to “go on vacation.”
35. In a call with BUCKINGHAM on or about July 10, 2018, CW-1 explained, in substance, that CW-2 would not require all of the extended time BUCKINGHAM’s son had been granted to take the ACT. The following is an excerpt from the conversation, which was intercepted pursuant to a Court-authorized wiretap.
CW-1 Hey there, so I just talked to Niki. So you guys are gonna meet at 8 a.m. in front of the [Houston Test Center].
CW-1 And you’re actually not gonna take the test there you because they’re doing some re-modeling at the school.
CW-1 But she’s gonna walk you across the street to Texas Southern University, ’cause it’s right across the street.
CW-1 And they’re gonna have a classroom all set up for the proctor, [CW-2] and [your son], and then Niki will take care of the rest.
BUCKINGHAM Amazing, and is it okay if he takes it all in one day?
CW-1 He’s going to take it one day ’cause [CW-2] is only flying in from Florida for one day.
BUCKINGHAM There you go that’s—
CW-1 But on, but on, but on the form, it will say two days.
BUCKINGHAM Got it, got it.
CW-1 So we will document that he took it over two days.
36. After speaking with BUCKINGHAM, CW-1 called CW-2 to review the logistics of the plan for CW-2 to take the exam. CW-1 told CW-2 that he would send him a check for $10,000
37. In a call on or about July 12, 2018, BUCKINGHAM advised CW-1, in substance, that her son had developed tonsillitis and that his doctor had advised against allowing him to travel. BUCKINGHAM asked CW-1 whether it would be possible for her to obtain a copy of the exam that she could have her son take at home—so that he would believe he had taken the test—while CW-2 took the actual exam on his behalf in Houston. The following is an excerpt from the conversation.
BUCKINGHAM So I guess my question is, look—
CW-1 Go ahead.
BUCKINGHAM First of all, he can get on the plane like he, according to him, he’s like, “I really don’t feel that bad, I think I’m okay.” And I do think that this doctor is a little over conservative. Part of my challenge is that my ex-husband is being incredibly difficult about the whole surgery, and if I take him to Houston and then he can’t get the surgery he’s gonna be very annoyed with me. So, my question is, there is no way for him to not go and it still to be done, I assume?
CW-1 Oh maybe I can do that, but I just don’t-- I have to talk to the proctor [to make sure she is] fine with doing it.
CW-1 It’s the gal who runs the school.
CW-1 So I have to ask her. I just got off the phone with her, but if, are you okay with that? And then just—
BUCKINGHAM Well what?
CW-1 The score.
BUCKINGHAM What I would do is, I would say to you, can you give me a test for him to take at home that we proctor him, that I proctor him?
CW-1 Got it, got it. Okay, yeah, I guess we could do we could do something like that.
BUCKINGHAM I mean that’s just, I guess, and it’s the only thing I can think of, if you think it’s doable?
CW-1 Yeah, so, the only fact, the only other way is that ACT allows a three-week window, unlike SAT, which is a three-day window.
CW-1 So I just talked to Niki, the gal at [the Houston Test Center], and she is back on the 25th of July.
BUCKINGHAM It just depends on whether he gets the surgery or not.
CW-1 I know, I know.
BUCKINGHAM He can’t, he can’t fly for two weeks after that.
CW-1 Okay, so let me call Niki and ask her if she would have a problem with [CW-2] just doing this.
CW-1 Which would actually make it easier for him to do it, because it would take less time, but let me call Niki right now and see what she says.
38. Later that same day, CW-1 called BUCKINGHAM to tell her that Williams was willing to go along with BUCKINGHAM’s plan. The following are two excerpts from the conversation.
CW-1 Okay, so here’s the deal.
CW-1 So Niki is willing to do it.
CW-1 We are looking for my, correct, that we are trying to get ourselves like 34 on the ACT?
BUCKINGHAM Yeah, yeah.
CW-1 So [CW-2] will do that. It’s really-- can be a 33, it could be a 34, it could be a 35.
CW-1 But, so, anyways, so the, she said she would do it, she would send us a copy of the test that we’re gonna take—
CW-1 And then, even though we’re already gonna send in his test, there at least [your son] will have taken the same test.
BUCKINGHAM Thank you, thank you.
CW-1 Okay, so your donation is gonna be 50. It’ll end up being through our foundation.
CW-1 And I’m already sending a check to the proctor today, and to Niki today, ’cause she said, “I gotta have the money first.”
CW-1 I said, “Niki, I have been doing this forever.” She said, “I get it, but this like, this is crazy.”
BUCKINGHAM Yeah. I know this is craziness, I know it is. And then I need you to get him into USC, and then I need you to cure cancer and [make peace] in the Middle East.
CW-1 I can do that; I can do that if you can figure out a way to boot your husband out so that he treats you well-- you’re treated better—
BUCKINGHAM That’s impossible. That’s impossible. But, you know, peace in the Middle East. You know, Harvard, the rest of it. I have faith in you.
CW-1 Got it, got it. Alright, so I will tell [CW-2] now that he’s just gonna pick it up [from] Niki, take it, [and] Niki will send us a copy, and then [your son] can take it sometime next week when he’s feeling better.
BUCKINGHAM Yeah, I mean look, he can take it Saturday, I have no problem with him taking [it then].
CW-1 But it’s not an issue with that. It can be anytime he wants.
BUCKINGHAM Right, okay, okay.
CW-1 That’s not an issue, ’cause it has to be sent in from Houston.
BUCKINGHAM And is-- will you send me where and how I should send the check?
CW-1 Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll send it so that you get your [IRS tax] write-off.
BUCKINGHAM Oh, even better!
CW-1 Yeah, it will be, it will be through the, our foundation, our 501(c)(3), and then we’ll send the checks to all the parties.
CW-1 And that way you, there’s no, people aren’t saying, “Well, why [did] you send a check to [the Houston Test Center]?” and da da da.
BUCKINGHAM Right, right.
39. On or about July 13, 2018, CW-2 asked CW-1 for a handwriting sample from BUCKINGHAM’s son so that CW-2 could attempt to match his handwriting on the exam. CW-1 called BUCKINGHAM to request the sample. The following is an excerpt from the conversation.
CW-1 Hey could you get me a handwriting sample?
CW-1 And a signature sample, so that he can kind of get close. Had he not taken the test before we wouldn’t have to do this, but I just want to make sure we’re close in our writing.
BUCKINGHAM Yes. He has not great writing. I’m gonna give you that, but I’m going to, actually I’m bringing [him] to the doctor right now, so we will sit down in the waiting room and I will send it to you.
40. Shortly thereafter, BUCKINGHAM sent CW-1 an e-mail with the notation, “Good luck with this.” Attached to the e-mail was a photograph of the following:
41. CW-2 took the ACT exam on or about July 14, 2018, in his room at a Houston-area hotel. The next day, CW-1 e-mailed BUCKINGHAM, “Test went well.”
42. On or about July 17, 2018, BUCKINGHAM asked CW-1, via e-mail, “[D]o you think we could get a copy of the ACT for [my son] to take?” Later that same day, an employee of The Key e-mailed BUCKINGHAM a copy of an ACT practice test.
43. On or about July 18, 2018, BUCKINGHAM wired $35,000 to a bank account in the name of the KWF charity as a partial payment toward the agreed-upon fee of $50,000. BUCKINGHAM advised CW-1 that she would seek to have her former spouse pay the remaining $15,000 she owed.
44. BUCKINGHAM’s son received a score of 35 out of a possible 36 on the ACT exam CW-2 secretly took on his behalf.
45. On or about October 29, 2018, at the direction of law enforcement agents, CW-1 called BUCKINGHAM from Boston, Massachusetts. On the call, BUCKINGHAM said that she would “probably like to do the same thing with [my daughter] with her ACTs” because she is “not a great test taker.” BUCKINGHAM said her daughter would not “need to get a 35” to be admitted to her chosen schools, “but if she got a 32 or 33, I’m assuming that would make her pretty competitive.”
B. GORDON CAPLAN
46. Defendant GORDON CAPLAN is a resident of Greenwich, Connecticut and New York, New York. CAPLAN is an attorney and the co-chairman of an international law firm based in New York.
47. In or about November and December 2018, CAPLAN participated in the college entrance exam cheating scheme by making a purported charitable donation of $75,000 to KWF, in exchange for which CW-1 arranged to have CW-2 purport to proctor CAPLAN’s daughter’s ACT exam and correct the answers after she had completed it.
48. In a call on or about June 15, 2018, CW-1 explained to CAPLAN, in sum and substance, how the scheme worked. The following is an excerpt from the conversation, which was intercepted pursuant to a Court-authorized wiretap.
CW-1 So here’s the first thing we need to do. And I think I mentioned this to your wife. We need to get your daughter tested for a learning difference. Here’s why. If she gets tested for a learning difference, and let’s say it’s my person that does it, or whoever you want to do it, I need that person to get her 100% extended time over multiple days. So, what that means is, we’ll have to show that there’s some discrepancies in her learning, which there’s gotta be anyways. And if she gets 100%, Gordon, then, I own two schools. I can have her test at one of my schools, and I can guarantee her a score. If it’s ACT, I can guarantee her a score in the, in the 30s. And if it’s the SAT, I can guarantee her a score in the 1400s. Now, all of a sudden, her test score does not become an issue with all the colleges. Because she’s strong enough. Then, if we clean up her transcript, then her ability, with her athletic ability and her testing and her getting better at school, it’s much easier to get her into school, because you’re not fighting huge obstacles at the types of schools you’re talking about. Now, if we do that, there’s a financial consideration that you have to pay to the school to get it done, because this is absolutely unheard of, to make this happen. I can make scores happen, and nobody on the planet can get scores to happen. She won’t even know that it happened. It will happen as though, she will think that she’s really super smart, and she got lucky on a test, and you got a score now. There’s lots of ways to do this. I can do anything and everything, if you guys are amenable to doing it.
CAPLAN Okay, so let me let me understand the two components. What is the, what is the, the number?
CW-1 So the number-- the number—
CAPLAN --At Cornell for instance.
CW-1 Well, hold on a second. The number on the testing is $75,000. Okay? It’s $75,000 to get any test scores you would like to get on the SAT or ACT. Okay, that’s—
CAPLAN Explain to me how that works.
CW-1 I just explained it to you. You get extended time, you gotta get the extended time first. Then you’re going to fly to L.A. And you’re going to be going on a fake recruiting visit. You’ll visit some schools, while you’re out here in L.A. And then on a Saturday, which is the national test day if it’s ACT or SAT, she’s going to sit down and take the test. I will have a proctor in the room, that’s why, when you have 100% extended time, you have-- you get to take it at a-- you don’t take it with everybody else, you get to take it over multiple days. And you get to take it at a-- you can take it at your school or another school. Okay? And then this kid, ’cause she’s taking online classes, you have to go somewhere anyway. So you come to my school, take the test on a Saturday. She’ll be in the room for six, six and a half hours taking this test. My proctor would then answer her questions, and by the end of the day, she would leave, and my proctor would make sure she would get a score that would be equivalent to the number that we need to get.
CW-1 That’s how simple it is. She doesn’t know. Nobody knows what happens. It happened, she feels great about herself. She got a test a score, and now you’re actually capable for help getting into a school. Because the test score’s no longer an issue. Does that make sense?
CAPLAN That does.
49. Later that same day, CW-1 had a follow-up call with CAPLAN in which he again explained, in substance, how the scheme worked, and in particular the need for CAPLAN’s `daughter “to be stupid” when a psychologist evaluated her for learning disabilities in order to
CAPLAN’s reference to the “number” for Cornell was a reference to the athletic recruitment scheme, which he also expressed an interest in but ultimately decided not to pursue.
CAPLAN’s daughter was enrolled at an online high school. obtain the documentation necessary to obtain extended time on the exam. The following are two excerpts from the conversation.
CAPLAN Well again, thanks for taking the time earlier today. Look, I’m particularly interested in working with you guys and figuring out what’s best for [my daughter]. She’s an interesting kid. I’m sure you’ve seen them all. But this notion of effectively going in, flying out to L.A., sitting with your proctor, and taking the exam is pretty interesting.
CW-1 It’s the homerun of homeruns.
CAPLAN And it works?
CW-1 Every time. (laughing)
CW-1 I mean, I’m sure I did 30 of them at different, you know, dates because there’s different dates, and they’re all families like yours, and they’re all kids that wouldn’t have perform[ed] as well, and then they did really well, and it was like, the kids thought, and it was so funny ’cause the kids will call me and say, “Maybe I should do that again. I did pretty well and if I took it again, I’ll do better even.” Right? And they just have no idea that they didn’t even get the score that they thought they got.
CW-1 Which is great, that’s the way you want it. They feel good about themselves.
CAPLAN Yeah, absolutely, and there’s nothing, just ask you directly, there’s nothing that the schools are concerned about with this, or have a problem with?
CW-1 Schools don’t know. Schools don’t know. That’s why you have to get 100% time or you have to get 50% multiple days. The only, so the way it works is, if you get 50% time you have to take it at a national test center okay? If you get 100% time you have to find a school that’ll actually give you the test. So, if she were at a traditional school, she would be taking it at that school. What I do is, I always tell the family, “Oh, you got a bar mitzvah out of town that weekend, so you found a school to take it at,” and they go take it at our school and then they come home and they get a score. So, the key is the testing, and we have to get the testing so that we show a discrepancy. It sounds like she has a discrepancy, but I need the discrepancies to be significant enough so that we don’t have to appeal, and we can go forward. The fact that she’s in an online school, that may be helpful for us as well.
CAPLAN And you work all of that out? You figure that out? Or?
CW-1 Yeah, absolutely.
CAPLAN And do you ever have a problem getting the 100% time?
CW-1 Oh yeah, there’s times when we have to appeal because, you know, for whatever reason. You have to understand that College Board and ACT both outsource their decisions to a committee, ’cause they’re tired of being sued. For, you know, so they do the outsourcing. So, sometimes you have to re-appeal so that psychologist that’ll do the testing, will actually write up an appeal. So, we’ll do that, and I also need to tell [your daughter] when she gets tested, to be as, to be stupid, not to be as smart as she is. The goal is to be slow, to be not as bright, all that, so we show discrepancies. And she knows that she’s getting all this extra time, everywhere that she is right now. At the Academy kids are getting extra time all the time.
CAPLAN You mean the Greenwich Academy?
CAPLAN Oh, oh you mean at her tennis academy. I see. Yeah. Okay.
CW-1 Yeah, everywhere around the country. What happened is, all the wealthy families that figured out that if I get my kid tested and they get extended time, they can do better on the test. So, most of these kids don’t even have issues, but they’re getting time. The playing field is not fair.
CAPLAN No, it’s not. I mean this is, to be honest, it feels a little weird. But.
CW-1 I know it does. I know it does. But when she gets the score and we have choices, you’re gonna be saying, okay, I’ll take all my kids, we’re gonna do the same thing. (laughing)
CAPLAN Yeah, I will.
CAPLAN So, how do I get this done with you? What do I need to do?
CW-1 So what I need to do is, I’m gonna talk to our psychologist, and we may have to send her to you, or you to her, so that she can get the testing done. I’m gonna talk to her, because she’s going to a school online, there are forms that have to be filled out by her teachers that she’s doing online, so we’ll need to send the whole packet to them. It’s a huge writeup. It’s, you know, it’s, I don’t know what it is, it costs like four or five grand to get the report all done and all the testing done and have, takes two days to get the testing done. And it shows all the discrepancies. Here’s the great thing. When she goes to college, she gets to bring this report with her, and she’ll get extended time in all those things in whatever school she goes to, which is huge again. She’ll get all the accommodations when she gets to college as well.
CW-1 Which will be really helpful.
CAPLAN Okay, okay.
CW-1 So I need to follow up, what I need to do is get your wife to send me her classes she’s in, her transcript, and then let me then have a discussion with our psychologist and ask her what she needs to get the ball rolling.
CAPLAN Okay. And how do I ensure that she’s working with you, and, you know, the people that you want her working with?
CW-1 So what happens is, I think your family already talked to my person who lives in New York.
CW-1 [My employee] and she’ll start working with [my employee]. [My employee] will be aware of everything that’s going on, she won’t say anything ’cause she knows. ’Cause we have a bunch of other New York families that are doing the same thing. And then what we’ll do is, she’ll work on a weekly basis with [my employee], the testing will be done by the psychologist, and then lastly, I already got the proctor already set up. He lives in Florida. He actually played tennis at Harvard and he’ll be the proctor. And then, when we get a score, and get her grades changed, and she retakes her classes, then we’ll figure out how good she is, late spring next year and we’ll go after those schools—
CAPLAN Okay, so what?
CW-1 --want to get into.
CAPLAN When will the-- so when will she take this extended test?
CW-1 Here’s the thing, we gotta get her tested, and I gotta figure out if her school will check the box that, normally it takes four months of getting accommodations, but she doesn’t go to a traditional school, so they should be able to check off the box without the four months. Then we would take it late fall this year and we would take it one time and be done.
CAPLAN Hmm. And a score of? You would think would be?
CW-1 The score will be whatever we need it to be.
CAPLAN Got it, okay. I will.