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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

Friday, October 18, 2019

Real Estate Developer Sentenced in College Admissions Case

Defendant deducted bribe payment from his income taxes

BOSTON –  A California real estate developer became the tenth parent to be sentenced in connection with the college admissions case.

Robert Flaxman, 62, of Laguna Beach, Calif., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani to one month in prison, one year of supervised release, ordered to complete 250 hours of community service and to pay a fine of $50,000. In May 2019, Flaxman pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

The government recommended a sentence of eight months in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $40,000.

Beginning in the 2016, Flaxman conspired with William “Rick” Singer and others to have his daughter’s ACT exam corrected, thereby fraudulently inflating the score. As part of the scheme, Flaxman took steps to secure extended time for his daughter to take the ACT and to take the exam at a test center in Houston, Texas, that Singer “controlled” through a corrupt test administrator. On Oct. 22, 2016, Flaxman’s daughter and the child of another client of Singer both took the ACT with the assistance of co-conspirator Mark Riddell. Riddell assisted in answering exam questions and instructed the students to answer different questions incorrectly so that the ACT would not suspect cheating. As a result of the cheating scheme, Flaxman’s daughter received a score of 28 out of 36 on the exam.

Two days prior to the exam, Flaxman made a purported charitable donation of $75,000 to Singer’s sham charity, Key Worldwide Foundation, to pay for the fraud. Thereafter, Flaxman deducted the bribe payment from his income taxes, thereby defrauding the IRS.

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

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric S. Rosen, Justin D. O’Connell, Leslie A. Wright and Kristen A. Kearney of Lelling’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.

Updated October 18, 2019