Stanford students file class-action lawsuit over college admissions scandal

(CNN) — Two Stanford University students filed a federal lawsuit seeking class-action status against the universities named in the college admissions scheme, saying their admissions process was “warped and rigged by fraud.”

Students Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods allege in part negligence, unfair competition and violations of consumer law, according to the suit filed Wednesday in US District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit asks for a variety of relief, including compensatory and punitive damages, restitution and other relief deemed proper by court.

The suit alleges Olsen and Woods have been damaged in that their degrees are not worth as much because prospective employers may question whether they were admitted to the school on their own merits “versus having parents who were willing to bribe school officials.”

The lawsuit names Stanford, the University of Southern California, UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Texas at Austin and Wake Forest, Yale and Georgetown universities as defendants. The schools were cited in the stunning nationwide conspiracy that federal prosecutors unveiled Tuesday.

Fifty people, including 33 parents and a number of college coaches at those universities, face charges in carrying out a scheme in which wealthy people used their money to game the admissions system.

On Tuesday, William Rick Singer, the man at the center of the scheme, pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice in federal court in Boston. Singer and his nonprofit, the Key Worldwide Foundation, and his college counseling business, the Key, also are defendants in the students’ lawsuit.

Both students said they spent money to apply to other schools named in the college admissions scandal, and attorneys allege they wouldn’t have applied had they known about the alleged scheme.

“Had (Olsen) 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. She also did not receive what she paid for — a fair admissions consideration process,” the lawsuit says.

Prosecutors have said that the universities are victims in the criminal case, and the schools have made similar assertions.

CNN is reaching out to the universities named for comment on the lawsuit.

In particular, court documents detail how Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer agreed to designate a prospective student as a recruited sailor, facilitating the student’s admission to Stanford, in exchange for a bribe. Singer sent $110,000 to the Stanford sailing program for one student and $160,000 to the program for another student, documents state.

Neither student ended up attending Stanford, according to the documents.

Vandemoer pleaded guilty Tuesday to racketeering conspiracy. Stanford said it has been cooperating with the Justice Department in the case and has fired the coach.

“Let us be clear: The conduct reported in this case is absolutely contrary to Stanford’s values, and to the norms this university has lived by for decades,” President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell said in a statement Tuesday. “Today’s news is a shock exactly because it so clearly violates our institutional expectations for ethical conduct.”

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