CEO sentenced to 3 weeks in college admissions scandal

Jane Buckingham, a marketing CEO in California, was sentenced Wednesday to three weeks in prison and a year of supervised release as part of the college cheating scandal. Buckingham, 50, was also ordered to pay a $40,000 fine.

Starting in 2018, Buckingham agreed to pay $50,000 for her son’s participation in a college entrance exam cheating scheme, according to a press release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts. As part of the scheme, Buckingham arranged for her son to take the ACT exam at a center in Houston “controlled” by William “Rick” Singer, where purported proctor Mark Riddell could correct his answers.

But after her son was unable to fly to Houston due to a medical condition, the press release states, Riddell took the ACT for him in a Houston hotel. Buckingham administered a fake exam to her son at her home in Los Angeles. The Associated Press reports Riddell scored a 35 out of 36.

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Three days later, Buckingham donated $35,000 to Singer’s “sham” charity, the Key Worldwide Foundation, the press release stated, and told Singer that her ex-husband would pay the remaining $15,000.

Jane Buckingham seen in Boston, Massachusetts, on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. Reuters

In October 2018, Buckingham told Singer that she wanted to use the same scheme to help her daughter, the press release stated — but she was arrested before she could move forward.

In May 2019, she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani obtained by CBS News, Buckingham wrote that “I do not want to make any excuses for what I did. I committed a crime and knew what I did was wrong. I am ashamed. I am embarrassed. And I am so very, very sorry. This wasn’t just a single bad decision. I could have stopped at multiple points, but each time I made the deliberate choice to go forward.” 

Prosecutors recommended six months in prison, one year of supervised release and a $40,000 fine. AP reported that prosecutors defended the recommendation by claiming that Buckingham was “more deeply engaged in the mechanics of the fraud than many of the other parents” in the case. By paying a proctor to take the exam, they reportedly said, she deprived her son “of even the opportunity to get any of the answers right on his own.”

Buckingham is the 11th parent to be sentenced in the scheme. And while many of the parents who pleaded guilty have been offered relatively short sentences, prosecutors are ramping up the charges against parents who have not yet pleaded guilty, including actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli. 

CBS Boston reported Wednesday that the U.S. Attorney’s office said Loughlin, Giannulli and nine others have now been accused of conspiring to commit federal program bribery. The additional charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years. 

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