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College admissions scandal snares North County residents

REGION — Two San Diego County residents have been indicted in the massive FBI investigation into parents securing their children admission to some of the best universities in the nation.

Named “Operation Varsity Blues,” the scandal has implicated at least 50 people including Elisabeth Kimmel, 54, of La Jolla (who also owns a home in Las Vegas) and Toby MacFarlane, 56, of Del Mar.

Early headlines described how actresses Lori Laughlin (“Full House”) and Felicity Huffman (“Desperate Housewives”) were also charged in the scheme.

Kimmel owned KMFB News8 in San Diego before selling the station in 2018. She was arrested March 12 at her La Jolla home and is accused of a conspiracy to get her daughter into Georgetown and son into the USC.

According to reports, Kimmel’s daughter’s application said she was a tennis recruit, although no there is no record of her daughter’s participation with the U.S. Tennis Association. Her daughter never played at Georgetown and graduated in 2017, according to NBC 7 in San Diego.

Kimmel allegedly bribed officials at both schools through a fixer, William Rick Singer, who operated the Key Worldwide Foundation. He is alleged to be the mastermind behind the $25 million scheme, in which university coaches, administrators and athletic department officials were paid off.

In many cases, the students of the accused parents were presented to schools as athletic recruits, which would allow them to be able to enroll without meeting academic requirements.

Additionally, it is alleged Singer bribed proctors for the SAT and ACT tests, which are benchmarks for university admissions. Those on Singer’s payroll allegedly received thousands of dollars to correct a student’s answers to earn a higher score.

Kimmel reportedly paid $200,000 to the foundation in February 2018 and a charity she controlled also paid $50,000 to the USC Women’s Athletic Board.

However, according to court documents, Kimmel was reportedly captured on a recording saying she had paid two-and-a-half times the $200,000 amount to a USC official.

MacFarlane, an insurance company executive, allegedly bribed the way for his son and daughter to be admitted to USC as athletic recruits, according to media reports. His 5-foot-5 son withdrew from USC in May 2018 without playing basketball.

In total, MacFarlane is alleged to have paid $450,000 for both his children to attend USC.

Also, two Stanford students, including San Marcos High School graduate Kalea Woods, filed a federal class-action lawsuit on March 13, according to 10 News in San Diego.

The fallout has been swift as dozens of coaches at USC, Georgetown, UCLA and other schools have been fired or placed on leave. School officials have also been terminated and dozens have been arrested and arraigned.

Other schools named in the indictment include the University of San Diego, Yale, Texas, Stanford and Wake Forest.

Many are being arraigned in a Boston federal court, where the original investigation began.