Private equity executive pleads guilty in U.S. college admissions scandal

BOSTON (Reuters) - An insurance and private equity executive pleaded guilty on Monday to participating in a vast U.S. college admissions fraud and bribery scheme in which he agreed to pay $40,000 to rig his daughter's ACT college entrance exam.

Mark Hauser, 59, entered his plea during a hearing before a federal judge in Boston held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming the latest wealthy parent to admit wrongdoing in the college admissions scandal.

As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend that Hauser, who lives in Los Angeles, serve six months in prison and pay a $40,000 fine. He faces sentencing on Jan. 21.

Fifty-eight people have been charged in the "Varsity Blues" scandal, in which prosecutors said parents conspired with California college admissions consultant William "Rick" Singer to secure their children's college admissions fraudulently.

The parents include "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman, who received a 14-day prison sentence, and "Full House" star Lori Loughlin, who was sentenced to two months in prison.

Singer pleaded guilty in March 2019 to facilitating cheating on college entrance exams and using bribery to secure the admission of students to colleges as fake athletic recruits.

Hauser is the founder of Cincinnati, Ohio-based Hauser Private Equity and the owner of the insurance firm Hauser Inc.

Brown & Brown canceled a deal to acquire Hauser Inc after his plea deal became public in August.

Prosecutors said Hauser in 2016 agreed to pay Singer $40,000 to have an associate proctor his daughter's ACT exam at a test center in Texas that Singer controlled through bribery and secretly correct her answers.

The associate was Mark Riddell, a Florida private school counselor who has pleaded guilty to taking SAT and ACT college entrance exams in place of Singer's clients' children or correcting their answers while acting as a test proctor.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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