Morrie Tobin, the Montreal native named in reports as the central figure who exposed an alleged college admissions scam in the United States, was described Tuesday by those who knew him as someone who stood out for his athleticism and drive.
Tobin, who pleaded guilty last month to conspiracy to commit securities fraud in an unrelated case, has been identified by the Wall Street Journal as the informant who helped expose the admissions scheme. At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents, including Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, are among those charged in an investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.
Clifford Margolese, 55, said he and Tobin were “thick as thieves” when they grew up together in the predominantly Jewish Montreal neighbourhood of Cote St-Luc.
“We played sports, we worked out, we chased girls, we drank beer. We had a good group of close friends,” Margolese said in an interview. “He was the prototypical Cote St-Luc good Jewish kid growing up.”
Now a manager for a building maintenance company in Victoria, Margolese said he had heard about Tobin’s troubles with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission prior to last week’s news about the college scandal that continues to grip the United States.
“I understand the position he’s in,” said Margolese, who graduated in 1980 with Tobin from Montreal’s Wagar High School, which closed in 2005. “I think it’s human nature. We would all do the same thing, faced with possible jail. I would think we would all do the same thing to protect our family and to try and generate some leniency.”
The Wall Street Journal described Tobin as a Los Angeles financier who tipped off federal authorities to the admission scandal “hoping for leniency” in his securities fraud case. The newspaper reported that Tobin’s information led to the arrests in the alleged nation-wide college admissions scheme.
College employees, including many coaches, are accused of taking bribes from wealthy parents to get their children into top schools by falsely portraying them as recruited athletes.
U.S. officials say some parents — including people prominent in Hollywood, law, finance, fashion and manufacturing — paid as much as $6.5 million to guarantee their child’s admission into colleges around the country.
— With files The Associated Press
The Canadian Press