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Willkie Cuts Ties as Gordon Caplan Plans Guilty Plea in College Cheating Case

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

Gordon Caplan, the former co-chairman of Willkie Farr & Gallagher charged last month with paying bribes to rig his daughter's college admissions test, said Friday he would plead guilty.

In a statement sent by his attorneys, Caplan said he takes "full and sole responsibility" for his misconduct and said he plans to plead guilty to the charge against him, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. The charge carries a legal maximum of 20 years in prison.

Willkie, which had placed Caplan on leave the day after he was charged, said in a statement Friday that he "is no longer a partner of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP."

"Mr. Caplan’s departure is a result of his involvement in the college admissions matter and his recent statement regarding his intent to plead to a criminal charge," the firm said. "At Willkie, nothing is more important to us than our integrity and we do not tolerate behavior that runs contrary to our core values. We remain focused on our responsibilities to our clients, partners and employees."

Caplan is one of 50 defendants charged in the college admissions scandal, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues. Federal prosecutors said in a complaint that he was caught on a wiretap discussing the details of a scheme with consultant William Singer to rig his daughter's ACT score in exchange for $75,000.

"I apologize not only to my family, friends, colleagues and the legal Bar, but also to students everywhere who have been accepted to college through their own hard work," Caplan said in Friday's statement. "I want to make clear that my daughter, whom I love more than anything in the world, is a high school junior and has not yet applied to college, much less been accepted by any school.  She had no knowledge whatsoever about my actions, has been devastated to learn what I did and has been hurt the most by it.

"My immediate goal is to focus on making amends for my actions to try to win back the trust and respect of my daughter, my family, and my community," the statement continued. "The remorse and shame that I feel is more than I can convey."

Caplan is represented by Joshua Levy and Michael McGovern of Ropes & Gray and Patrick Smith and Sarah Zimmer of Smith Villazor.

The announcement that Caplan will plead guilty comes two days after he first appeared in federal court in Boston to face the charges alongside other parents caught up in the case. He had been released in New York on a $500,000 personal recognizance bond and the court in Boston left those terms in place.