"I need you to get him into USC, and then I need you to cure cancer and (make peace) in the Middle East," she told Singer, who replied, "I can do that."
While the accused parents' desperation for entrance to USC was mocked by many on social media, others saw it as a recognition, however perverse, of the university's rapid rise in reputation and standards.
"It is an institution that has changed its profile and selectivity so dramatically in the last generation," said Emmi Harward, the executive director of the Association of College Counselors in Independent Schools. "Alums who have children going through the process may be fully aware of the fact that they would not now be admitted to the institution they graduated from."
USC's board chairman, Rick Caruso, a billionaire whose children have attended the university, said he personally knew two families in which parents were charged.
"I'm shocked by it. I am really so legitimately saddened for the kids," Caruso said. "It's an unthinkable act."
He declined to name the families, but said they had never asked him for help in gaining admission. When prosecutors announced the charges, Caruso's daughter, an undergraduate, was on a spring break trip and ran into the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin, one of the parents accused in the case.
At least two parents who were charged socialized with USC trustees or top administrators. Bill McGlashan, a Marin County financier who manages funds for one of the world's largest private equity investors, bragged to Singer in a July wiretapped phone call that "half the board knows me" and he planned to ask them to help with his son's admission.
Singer, on the recording, told him not to say anything to his trustee friends: "The quieter this is, the better it is."
Defendant J. Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer married to Loughlin, traveled to Augusta, Ga., home of the Masters golf tournament, with USC athletic director in 2016, according to the affidavit. It is unclear whether he was speaking of the current athletic director, Lynn Swann, or his predecessor, Pat Haden.
Prosecutors allege Giannulli and Loughlin were conspiring with Singer to bribe one of the athletic director's subordinates to falsely designate his daughters as members of the crew team to gain admission.