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College admissions scandal: Fight for FBI notes a new battlefront for accused parents

BOSTON – Parents fighting charges in the nation’s college admissions scandal are going on the offensive as their attorneys claimed federal prosecutors wrongly refused to turn over evidence that could prove their clients’ innocence.

It marks a new battlefront in the “Varsity Blues” admissions case as 15 parents dig in for trial next year.

Bill McGlashan, a former executive at the private equity firm TPG Growth, on Wednesday became the fourth defendant in the past month whose attorneys filed motions asking a judge to intervene to force the Justice Department to produce what they said is evidence favorable to their client.

Defense attorneys seek FBI "302 reports" that detail witness statements and interview notes taken during the investigation. Attorneys for actress Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli, as well as Gamal Abdelaziz, former president of Wynn Macau, filed similar briefs seeking the same documents in their cases.

More: Lori Loughlin's attorneys argue feds conceal evidence in college admissions scandal

Prosecutors have denied the requests, arguing the reports are irrelevant and too broad. Instead, they've turned over only their summaries of the reports.

The latest filing from McGlashan includes the government’s bullet-point summary of an FBI interview about him with Rick Singer, the mastermind of the sprawling admissions scheme. It was submitted to McGlashan's lead defense attorney, John Hueston, in a letter Nov. 27.

McGlashan of Mill Valley, California, is accused of paying $50,000 to Singer's nonprofit Key Worldwide Foundation to participate in Singer's entrance exam plot, and conspiring to take part in a recruitment scheme to get his son into the University of Southern California as a fake football recruit.

More: College admissions scandal: Parents say payments to ringleader weren't bribes

Singer referred to the recruitment scam as a "side door" into college. McGlashan’s attorneys noted that Singer told the FBI in September 2018 that McGlashan “would not be using the side door, but would be ‘going through his own connections,' " according to the prosecution's summary.

In the charging document against McGlashan, prosecutors said Singer secretly approached several clients, including McGlashan, and warned them of the FBI's investigation after he started cooperating with the government. It led to an additional obstruction of justice charge against Singer. 

McGlashan's attorneys contended Singer's interview “flatly contradicted” the government’s public statement that McGlashan decided against the “side door” option the next month because he learned of the government’s investigation. They argued Singer's interview supports McGlashan’s claim of innocence regarding the “side door” scheme.

“Nonetheless, the government still maintained that it was not obligated to produce this information and other related materials,”  McGlashan’s motion said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on McGlashan's filing and efforts by other parents to obtain the FBI reports.

More: College admissions scandal tracker: Who's pleaded guilty, who's gone to prison — and who's still fighting

McGlashan, who was let go by TPG Growth after he was charged in March, pleaded not guilty to fraud, money laundering and bribery charges. McGlashan left as CEO of the Rise Fund, a investment group aimed at social change that he started with U2 frontman Bono.

Prosecutors alleged McGlashan paid $50,000 from his personal charity fund to Singer's foundation three days before his son took the ACT in December 2017. They said his son took the exam at the Singer-controlled West Hollywood Test Center in Los Angeles, where Mark Riddell, a private school counselor from Florida, acted as a proctor and corrected his answers.

McGlashan's son received a score of 34, which was submitted in his application to Northeastern University. But his attorneys said, according to a government interview summary, an administrator at the boy's high school told the FBI he was “very smart” and a score of 34 was “not crazy.”

McGlashan's son scored a 33 when he retook the ACT this past September, his attorneys argued in the motion, and prosecutors have offered "no evidence" that Riddell corrected answers the first time.

Singer's interview summary said he told the FBI that McGlashan knew someone else would take the ACT for his son and he would get a good score but that he didn't want to know the full details of the scheme. He said McGlashan's son did not know about the scheme. 

When McGlashan was charged in March, prosecutors highlighted cellphone data that put him and his son at the West Hollywood Test Center at 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 9, 2017, leaving Los Angeles shortly after 3 p.m. and going to the San Francisco area, where they remained that day and the next. But an ACT administrator submitted a form that showed the test was taken over two days  – when the cellphone data showed the teen was hundreds of miles away.

More: Lori Loughlin told daughters they needed to do better in high school, new court doc alleges

Concerning the recruitment scheme allegations, wiretapped phone conversations released by prosecutors revealed McGlashan discussed with Singer how he would alter an image to make his son look like a kicker on a football team for his USC application. 

In the new motion, McGlashan's attorneys said his son was placed on a "VIP" list kept by USC reserved for applicants of high-donor families and others with connections. His application was never presented before a USC subcommittee for athletic recruits, they claimed. His son withdrew his application from USC before an admissions decision, and McGlashan did not pay Singer the proposed $250,000 to have his son tagged as a recruit.

More: USC tagged applicants from big-donor and connected families as 'VIPs' emails show

In addition to the FBI "302 reports," McGlashan's defense asked for any evidence of him not understanding Singer's scheme to involve bribery and not taking part in the side door scheme or that shows USC was not a victim in the case.

McGlashan requested grand jury transcripts and documents, notes or other information to help build an "entrapment defense" – specifically information showing when Singer started working for the FBI and when he first suspected he was being investigated.

"McGlashan is entitled to information regarding when Singer might have first had motive to ensnare as many parents as possible into his scheme and develop evidence for the Government," the filings said.

Fifty-three people, including 36 parents, have been charged in the college admissions case. Thirty either pleaded guilty or agreed to plead guilty, and the remaining 23, including 15 parents, prepare for trial. 

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @Joeygarrison.