University of San Diego campus
The University of San Diego campus. Courtesy of the university

The University of San Diego is among eight universities being sued by two Stanford University students in federal court over the nationwide college admissions cheating scam, according to court papers obtained Thursday.

The lawsuit, which seeks class-action status on behalf of students who underwent admissions procedures without knowledge of an alleged “unfair, rigged process,” was filed Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco by attorneys for Stanford students Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods, who is from Escondido.

There was no immediate response from the universities named in the suit.

Also named in the lawsuit as defendants are USC, UCLA, Stanford, the University of Texas, Wake Forest University, Yale University and Georgetown University. Newport Beach businessman William “Rick” Singer, the admitted ringleader of the scheme, is also a named defendant.

Olsen states in the lawsuit that she applied to Yale University with a “stellar standardized test score, and a glowing profile that included being a talented athlete and dancer.”

“Had she known that the system at Yale University was warped and rigged by fraud, she would not have spent the money to apply to the school,” the lawsuit states. “She also did not receive what she paid for — a fair admissions consideration process.”

The complaint seeks at least $5 million on behalf of what could be thousands of plaintiffs.

Singer pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering and money laundering on Tuesday. A total of 50 people, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, were charged for their alleged involvement in the conspiracy. The probe has also snared wealthy parents, college athletics coaches and administrators.

Dubbed Varsity Blues by federal investigators, the probe was announced Tuesday in Boston. Federal authorities said the scheme was designed by Singer to get the children of well-heeled parents into elite universities.

Several coaches at Los Angeles-area universities were arrested in connection with the alleged $25 million scam. Prosecutors said wealthy parents would pay thousands of dollars to get their children admitted to prestigious universities by passing them off as recruited athletes — regardless of their athletic ability — or by helping them cheat on college entrance exams.

In some cases, the ruse over fake athletic recruiting included the use of staged or faked photos of the students posing with athletic equipment or appearing to compete in sports they did not actually play, prosecutors allege.

The alleged conspiracy led to arrests Tuesday by federal agents in multiple states. Athletic coaches from USC, UCLA, Yale, Stanford, Wake Forest and Georgetown, among others, were implicated, as well as parents and entrance-exam administrators.

There was no indication that the schools themselves were involved in the scheme.

USC announced Tuesday that two of its employees implicated in the scandal — water polo coach Jovan Vavic and senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel — had been fired. UCLA soccer coach Jorge Salcedo was placed on leave.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.