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Press Release

Former Key Worldwide Employee Pleads Guilty in College Admissions Case

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Defendant took online classes for students and helped fabricate athletic “profiles” and other documents to bolster students’ college applications

BOSTON – A former employee of William “Rick” Singer’s “The Key” for-profit business pleaded guilty today in connection with her involvement in a scheme to use bribery and fraud to facilitate the admission of applicants to colleges nationwide.

Mikaela Sanford, 34, of Folsom, Calif., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering. U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani scheduled sentencing for Jan. 15, 2021. According to the terms of the plea agreement, the government will recommend a sentence at the low end of the sentencing guidelines, one year of supervised release, a fine, forfeiture in the amount of $67,062 and restitution.

Sanford, who was employed by “The Key,” took online classes for students so that the students could submit the grades Sanford earned in their names as part of their application packages to colleges and universities. In other instances, Sanford helped fabricate athletic “profiles” and other documents to bolster students’ college applications by making the students appear to be highly successful high school athletes when, in fact, they were not.

Sanford is the 42nd defendant to plead guilty in this case.

Case information, including the status of each defendant, charging documents and plea agreements are available here:

The charge of racketeering conspiracy provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater and restitution. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Joleen Simpson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; and Mark Deckett, Resident Agent in Charge of the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric S. Rosen, Justin D. O’Connell, Leslie A. Wright, Kristen A. Kearney, Stephen E. Frank and Karin M. Bell of Lelling’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated October 1, 2020