A Miami Beach health exec was so adamant about his son being admitted into the University of Pennsylvania that he paid around $300,000 in bribes to its basketball coach and sent over $400,000 to Key Worldwide Foundation, a charity at the focus of a nationwide college admissions scandal.
Esformes first reached out to UPenn’s varsity basketball coach Jerome Allen in May 2013 in pursuit of adding his son on the short list of recruits so he would be placed on a fast track to receive admittance to the university, according to the Miami Herald.
Now standing trial for Medicare fraud, Esformes reached out to William “Rick” Singer – the leader of a college consulting business at the center of a bribery and test-cheating investigation recently unveiled by the Department of Justice – months later.
Esformes was previously charged with creating the largest Medicare fraud racket, which totaled $1 billion and began trial as the only remaining defendant in February. As part of the trial, Esformes was also charged in the college admissions bribery case.
During his Medicare fraud trial, court evidence show that Esformes texted Singer in February 2014 to inquire about his son’s chances of getting into the university with a specific SAT score and whether he would have a better chance of being admitted if he applied as a student-athlete.
In the end, Allen put Esformes’ son on his “recruited basketball player” list in exchange for the $300,000 in bribes so that his son could be accepted into UPenn.
In addition, bank records testified in the Department of Justice’s case find that Esformes sent more than $400,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation. The funds came from taxpayer-funded Medicare payments to Esformes’s chain of skilled-nursing and assisted living facilities in Miami-Dade County.
He is also accused of conspiring with other associates, who have been convicted, of defrauding the Medicare program by submitting false claims and paying kickbacks for patient referrals to his network.
Fifty people were charged in the bribery scandal, what is now deemed “Operation Varsity Blues.” Authorities have called it the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice, with parents being accused of paying an assessed $25 million in bribes.