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Socialite sentenced to 5 weeks in prison in college admissions scandal

Matthew Ormseth, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- A Newport Beach socialite who admitted paying $9,000 for a conspirator to take her son's online courses at Georgetown University, was sentenced Wednesday to five weeks in prison.

Karen Littlefair was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Allison D. Burroughs to pay a $209,000 fine and serve 300 hours of community service.

Littlefair, 57, became the 18th parent sentenced and the 16th sent to prison for conspiring with William "Rick" Singer, a Newport Beach college admissions consultant, who for a decade rigged standardized tests and bribed college coaches, then helped federal agents unravel the scheme and ensnare his co-conspirators in a bid to reduce his eventual prison sentence.

Singer, who pleaded guilty to four felonies last March, has yet to be sentenced.

In 2017, after Georgetown placed Littlefair's son on academic probation, Littlefair and Singer agreed to have his employees take her son's online courses for him, Eric S. Rosen, an assistant U.S. attorney, wrote in a sentencing memo.

In exchange for $9,000, Singer's employees completed four courses in Littlefair's son's name. When Singer billed her $3,000 for one of the classes, Littlefair requested a discount, saying, "The grade was a C and the experience was a nightmare."

 

Singer didn't budge. It "was a nightmare for all," he wrote back.

Littlefair's lawyer, Kenneth B. Julian, asked Burroughs to spare his client prison and punish her instead with probation. Her son has resigned from his "ideal job" at the U.S. Treasury Department, his Georgetown degree has been revoked, and the Littlefair family has been publicly humiliated, Julian wrote in a sentencing memo.

"The curse of carrying around a felony conviction is a significant punishment and deterrent that promotes respect for the law," he said.

Government lawyers had sought a four-month sentence for Littlefair, arguing she took part in several frauds, not just the one that involved a third party taking her son's online classes. While Littlefair admitted only to this scheme in her plea agreement, Rosen said the government has evidence that Mark Riddell, Singer's Harvard-educated accomplice, used a fake ID to take the ACT exam for Littlefair's son in 2011, lifting the young man's score by eight points.

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