William "Rick" Singer, the Newport Beach, California man at the head of an elaborate fraud to get students of wealthy families into top-rated colleges by cheating on college admissions exams and bribing coaches and admissions officers, has a long history of dealing with Silicon Valley clients.
In one Facebook post provided to the Voice's sister paper, the Palo Alto Weekly, he claims to have shared his "secrets" with clients who have included John Doerr, managing partner of Kleiner Perkins; late Apple CEO Steve Jobs; Bill Joy, the former chief strategy officer of Sun MicroSystems; Michael Murphy, chief strategy officer at Facebook; and famed quarterback Joe Montana and his wife, Jennifer.
Through his nonprofit Key Worldwide Foundation, he claimed to be providing funding to organizations that further educational opportunities for underprivileged youth. But the only charitable organization doing that work was a Palo Alto-based charity that gave a group of Cambodian children an education -- and they said they never received any money from Key Worldwide Foundation and never heard of Singer or the foundation until reporters began to call on Tuesday.
Elia and Halmah Van Tuyl, a former real estate appraiser and teacher respectively, formed Friends of Cambodia after visiting the country in 2005 to document efforts by a social philanthropist who funds projects in Southeast Asia. While there, they saw children scavenging in a garbage dump and started his fundraising organization to help the Centre of Children's Happiness in Cambodia to support each child in its residential school program until they were 18 years old. The Van Tuyls also fund-raised to get the children through college, and in December disbanded their efforts, deeming their mission completed, Elia Van Tuyl told the Weekly.
But he noted that Friends of Cambodia was never a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization, instead working under the umbrella of a bonafide nonprofit group, Give2Asia, through a donor-advised fund, which handled and distributed the funds. But Friends of Cambodia shows up as grant recipients on Key Worldwide Foundation's Form 990, which are required of nonprofit organizations by the Internal Revenue Service, in 2015 and 2016. The foundation listed Friends of Cambodia as receiving more than $19,000 in 2015 and $18,555 in 2016. Notably, the Friends is the only organization that actually supported children's education. The other recipients were mainly universities and athletics programs, some of which are now implicated in Singer's fraudulent scheme.
Van Tuyl said his organization never received any of the money Singer claimed to have given Friends of Cambodia and he has no idea why or how his tiny organization, which mostly received small donations in the hundreds of dollars, ended up being named as having gotten such large sums.
"Everything I know I learned today," he said on Tuesday evening. "We never received donations from Key Worldwide. I checked my emails. It's a complete mystery to me how we got on their 990 along with a list of colleges," he said. The Van Tuyls did not have any bank account for their organization. "We don't exist as a nonprofit. No one could write a check to Friends that we could cash," he said.
"It just shows the frenzy and insanity of college admissions," he added of the scandal.
Singer claims to have had a 26-year career as a life coach and college counselor. The company The Key Worldwide provides one-on-one support for students to help design and realize a life plan, according to the company's website. The company is located in 81 cities throughout the U.S. and five overseas countries.
Singer and his team coached more than 90,000 adults, the company claims. "With their guidance, thousands of high school and college students have received guidance on the admissions process to either attain an undergraduate or graduate degree in every field imaginable," the website notes.
"Don't leave it to chance! Take the guesswork and frustration out of the college admissions equation ... Even a small oversight or mistake in the college admissions process can make all the difference in your son or daughter gaining admission top the school of their dreams or receiving a valuable scholarship," the company states.
In 2000, Singer and three other educators created the University of Miami Online High School with a purported student population of over 18,000 students annually paying more than $15,000 per year tuition. The company was sold to Kaplan College Preparatory.