Wiretap reveals local father was paranoid that college bribery scam would implicate Kleiner Perkins

Originally printed March 14 in the Daily Post.

BY ALLISON LEVITSKY
Daily Post Staff Writer

A Hillsborough real estate investor accused of paying $600,000 for his two daughters to get into UCLA and USC said in a wiretapped phone call that he was concerned about the scam being a “front-page story with everyone from Kleiner Perkins,” according to federal prosecutors.

Bruce Isackson, 61, co-founded the Woodside real estate firm WP Investments in 1991.

He and his wife, Davina Isackson, were both charged Tuesday in connection with the massive bribery scam along with 11 other mid-Peninsula parents.

The allegations against the Isacksons are similar to those against 31 other wealthy parents across the country, including in the Bay Area and Los Angeles and on the East Coast.

Prosecutors say that the parents paid Rick Singer, an admitted fraudster, to bribe athletic directors at elite schools to recommend their children as athletic recruits using falsified qualifications.

Many parents also paid Singer to help their kids cheat on the SAT or ACT by paying a proctor to give them the answers to a test as they took it in a private classroom. The Isacksons allegedly paid a total of $500,000 in Facebook stock to have an athletic director at each school recommend their daughters as athletic recruits in soccer and crew, respectively.

They’re also accused of paying $100,000 in stock to hire a proctor who gave their younger daughter, the answers to the ACT as she was taking it in a private classroom.

Singer agreed to cooperate with federal investigators in hopes of getting a lenient sentence.

As part of the investigation, he made a series of wiretapped phone calls in which he told his clients that he was being audited to get them to admit their role in the scam in the course of the conversation.

He wondered if phone was tapped

“You know, I am so paranoid about this f***ing thing you were talking about. I don’t like talking about it on the phone, you know,” Bruce Isackson allegedly told Singer on a taped phone call on Dec. 3. “You know, I’m thinkin’, you know, are they — I mean, I can’t imagine they’d go to the trouble of tapping my phone — but would they tape someone like your phones?”

According to prosecutors, the Isacksons paid Singer to bribe Ali Khosroshahin, then the head coach of women’s soccer at USC, and UCLA men’s soccer head coach Jorge Salcedo to recommend their older daughter as an athletic recruit using falsified soccer credentials.

The teen was ultimately accepted at UCLA, her father’s alma mater and her second-choice school.

Later, Isackson told Singer that his stomach “kind of fell out” in nervousness about getting caught.

“I’m just thinking, oh my God, because you’re thinking, does this roll into something where, you know, if they get into the meat and potatoes, is this gonna be this — be the front-page story with everyone from Kleiner Perkins do whatever, getting these kids into school?” Isackson asked. “It’s so hard for these kids to get into college, and here’s — look what — look what’s going on behind the schemes, and then, you know, the embarrassment to everyone in the communities. Oh my God, it would just be — yeah. Ugh.”

The call wasn’t the only time Kleiner Perkins, the Sand Hill Road venture capital firm behind Amazon and AOL, has been mentioned in relation to the scheme.

In 2014, a Facebook page advertising Singer’s self-published book on college admissions named Kleiner Perkins Managing Director John Doerr as one of his clients.

Doerr didn’t return the Post’s request for comment.

A thank-you message

“I know it has been a rough ride, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul for your persistence, creativity and commitment towards helping (our daughter),” Davina Isackson wrote in an email to Singer, Bruce Isackson and their daughter in June 2016.

Singer paid Salcedo $100,000 for the admission and paid Khosroshahin $25,000, the indictment states.

The following month, Bruce Isackson emailed Singer and Davina Isackson confirming that Singer had agreed to refund their $250,000 “gift” if their daughter was not admitted to UCLA.

“Again, both Davina and I are greatly appreciative of all your efforts on (our daughter)’s behalf!” Isackson wrote. Singer responded the same day, confirming that he would return $250,000 if the teen’s UCLA admission was reversed.

In April, the Isacksons are accused of paying another $250,000 in stock after receiving an acceptance email from USC.

11 Comments

  1. The Post should find out who at Kleiner Perkins were involved in this scheme to buy college admissions. The prosecutors will probably leave them alone, given their clout and wealth, but the paper should at least print their names.

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  2. I am so totally disgusted by this. I got into USC on my own hard work and merits. There’s no way I would have been even a little comfortable if my parents had to buy my way in.
    I know this family. The kids were raised with the best of everything. If they had tutors and still didn’t have the apptitude to get into their schools of choice, they should have done what non-privileged kids do and find a school that will accept them based on their actual high school performance.
    The awful part is those rich kids took a spot from someone who had legitimately earned their way in.
    The fact their daughters knew they were cheating makes this whole situation even more disturbing.

    • Totally agree with you. One of the things that gets me about this, too, is that these kids were destined to have good futures already based on their families’ wealth and connections. Getting them into top schools by fraud says a lot more about their parents then it does about the kids.

    • I agree. I have been thinking all along about the consequences if any of these parents deducted their contribution to the “charity” from their taxes.

  3. The high schools involved in the SAT/ACT scams should be investigated too. Students can’t receive test accommodations unless their teachers support the accommodations and the school guidance/college counselor approves/submits them. In the Notre Dame case, the school played a part in the fraud because the school had to verify that the student qualified for and needed accommodations which was false information. If Notre Dame had been honest the student would have never been approved for a private proctor.

  4. It makes sense that KPCB would be involved in this given their reputation. Hopefully the FBI will continue to investigate. Maybe Isackson will spill the beans in return for a light sentence? Imagine John Doerr in an orange jump suit and handcuffs.

  5. I have a message for these parents: With the amount of money you have, your kid will be totally fine even if they just stay home all day and play video games. I don’t understand the obsession with getting into college. If you have millions of dollars, who CARES if your kid goes to USC? And USC is not even a great school.

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