BOSTON — A day after 13 parents agreed to plead guilty to single counts of mail fraud in the college admissions scandal, former First Busey board member Elisabeth Meyer Kimmel and 15 others were hit with a superseding indictment adding money laundering to the list of charges they’re facing.
With the new indictment, prosecutors allege these parents laundered their money through the Key Worldwide Foundation, which claimed to help disadvantage students but which prosecutors say was a phony foundation that passed the payments on to coaches and athletic directors at elite universities.
Kimmel, 54, allegedly paid $275,000 in 2013 to help her daughter get into Georgetown University as a purported tennis athlete and $200,000 in 2017 and 2018 to help her son get into the University of Southern California as a purported pole vaulter.
Many of the parents allegedly made similar payments, filing personal tax returns listing the payments as donations, according to prosecutors.
In Kimmel’s case, she allegedly made the payments through her family’s charity, the Meyer Charitable Foundation, which she is the assistant secretary of.
In her daughter’s admission to Georgetown in 2013, Kimmel allegedly signed three checks to KWF from the Meyer Charitable Foundation — one for $100,000, another for $170,000 and a final one for $5,000.
After the first check, the foundation’s accountant "sent a letter to the Meyer Charitable Foundation falsely confirming that ‘no goods or services were exchanged’ for the purported donation," prosecutors said.
The two larger donations show up on the Meyer Charitable Foundation’s publicly available tax forms and are marked as charitable donations.
With Kimmel’s son’s admission to USC in 2018, prosecutors said the Meyer Charitable Foundation made a $50,000 donation to the USC Women’s Athletics Board with a check signed by Greg Kimmel, and a $200,000 payment to KWF with a check signed by Elisabeth Kimmel.
Last October, after the leader of the alleged scheme, Rick Singer, had become a cooperating witness, he allegedly told Kimmel his foundation was being audited by the IRS and talked with her about what he would say his foundation does.
"Essentially, what I’m going to tell the IRS is that your donations were made to my foundation to fund underserved kids, which is the mission of our foundation," according to a transcript of the call. "So I just wanted to make sure that we were on the same page."
"Oh, well, as far as I know, I don’t know what you’ve done with the money I gave your foundation," Kimmel allegedly said. "I mean, I — you never really told me."
"Okay, that’s — that’s perfect," he allegedly responded.
Each of the charges Kimmel faces come with a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines up to twice the amount of the money laundered.
Two days after Kimmel was charged last month, she resigned from the First Busey board of directors, which she joined 11 months ago.
Kimmel was the second-largest First Busey shareholder on the board, which her dad, August "Chris" Meyer Jr., has served on since 1962.
The Meyer family ran Midwest Television, which owned WCIA-TV until 1999, and last year completed the $325 million sale of its San Diego TV and radio stations.
Kimmel’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment from News-Gazette Media.
Her kids were apparently unaware of the alleged scheme.
According to the original indictment, Kimmel’s son was confused when his advisor asked about his status as a track athlete.
USC is conducting a case-by-case review of all students involved in the alleged scheme and has placed a hold on their accounts, preventing them from registering for classes until they agree to participate in the review and preventing them from withdrawing from the university.
In its reviews, USC said it is considering developments in the criminal cases, including plea deals, and that students could face expulsion.