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Former Willkie Co-Chair Gordon Caplan's Plea Deal With Prosecutors Calls for Prison Time

Gordon Caplan

Gordon Caplan, former co-chairman of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, left, leaves the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston with his lawyer Joshua Levy, of Ropes & Gray, right, after his initial appearance in the college admissions bribery scandal April 3, 2019. Photo: Jack Newsham/ALM

Former law firm leader Gordon Caplan, television actress Felicity Huffman and 12 other people are set to plead guilty in the college admissions bribery scandal, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts said Monday.

Caplan, the former Willkie Farr & Gallagher chairman, announced his intention to plead guilty last week. Caplan and Huffman are among 12 parents expected to be charged by information with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, the prosecutors said. One parent will plead guilty to other charges.

In a copy of his plea deal posted online Monday, Caplan and the prosecutors agree that his guidelines offense level is 11, which translates to a recommended term of 8 to 14 months in prison for someone with no criminal history.

The government agreed to recommend a term at the lower end of that range, but the court will also do its own calculation and consider other factors in the ultimate sentencing calculation. Prosecutors also agreed to recommend a year of supervised release and a $40,000 fine. Caplan also waved his right to appeal the court's decision.

"After the court issues a written judgment, defendant will lose the right to appeal or otherwise challenge his conviction and sentence, regardless of whether he later changes his mind or finds new information that would have led him not to agree to give up these rights in the first place," the agreement said.

The maximum sentence for the conspiracy count that most of the defendants will be pleading guilty to is 20 years in prison. Federal sentencing guidelines generally call on judges to impose much milder terms than the statute allows, however.

The announcement marks the beginning of the end of a large swathe of the college admissions scandal prosecution, also called Operation Varsity Blues. Fifty people were charged last month by prosecutors in Boston with cooperating in a fraud ring that centered on William Singer, a college admissions consultant who helped parents bribe coaches and test administrators so their children had a better chance of getting into prominent schools.

Parents who used the used their payments to Singer's charity to reduce their tax bills also agreed to come clean with the IRS, prosecutors said.

The sentencing guideline range calculated for Caplan is in the lower-middle end of the ranges for other parents whose plea agreements were posted online by prosecutors. The offense levels ranged from 7 to 21 and appeared to be driven largely by the payments the defendants allegedly made to Singer, which ran from $15,000 to $600,000 for the 13 parents who pled guilty.

Court dates for the guilty pleas have not been set, but the plea agreements posted online impose an April 30 deadline.

Also among the 14 people whose guilty pleas were announced Monday are Bruce Isackson, who is also pleading guilty to money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to defraud the IRS, the government said. He and his wife Davina agreed to cooperate.

Michael Center, the University of Texas at Austin's former men's tennis head coach, will also plead guilty to a fraud conspiracy count, prosecutors said.