Federal investigators looked into Amazon Studios chief Jennifer Salke and her husband, Fox 21 Television Studios president Bert Salke, as they conducted a sprawling probe of cheating in elite college admissions, a source close to the case told Variety.
It does not appear, however, that prosecutors will charge the Salkes in the case.
The Salkes were never contacted by investigators, and the source says there does not appear to be enough evidence to prove wrongdoing. They are among the hundreds of parents who retained the services of Rick Singer, the Newport Beach college admissions consultant at the center of the scandal. The couple issued a statement on Friday acknowledging that they hired Singer for legitimate college counseling and ACT tutoring services for their daughters.
The FBI did not scrutinize each and every parent who used Singer’s services. The source who spoke to Variety declined to elaborate on why the Salkes came under suspicion.
Over the last several weeks, Variety asked Jennifer Salke and her representatives to clarify her relationship with Singer. Told last week that Variety intended to publish a story on the situation, Salke hired attorney Martin Singer. At the time, Jennifer Salke declined to comment on the matter. Amazon also declined comment.
Rick Singer operated the Edge College & Career Network, otherwise known as the Key, which assisted affluent parents looking to get their children into top colleges. Singer pleaded guilty in March to orchestrating a vast conspiracy to gain admission by bribing college coaches and by fraudulently boosting his clients’ SAT and ACT scores.
The Key also offered legitimate college counseling and tutoring services. Investigators are still analyzing a mountain of evidence in an effort to distinguish between parents who used the legitimate services and those who engaged in fraud.
In their statement issued on Friday, the Salkes said they had never discussed any illegal activity with Rick Singer.
“We are releasing this statement to clarify an issue which has become increasingly of interest to various members of the press,” they said. “Like many other families, we engaged the legitimate services of Rick Singer’s company, the Key Worldwide, to provide college counseling and tutoring services for our children.
“Singer’s company provided our daughters with a tutor for ACT testing and guidance on the college application process. Our daughters took the ACT test in an official testing facility, which included a proctor. Neither were allotted extra time or required any assistance. Rick Singer provided periodic in person counseling, primarily related to college selection. We never engaged in any discussion involving any illegal activity in any of those meetings. Our daughters did not apply to college as athletes of any kind, nor did they apply to any of the since-exposed schools involved in the scandal. We have never written a check or sent any other type of payment to the fraudulent Key Worldwide Foundation. We have never been contacted by law enforcement (including the DOJ and the FBI) about this case.”
“Our girls graduated with outstanding academic records at the very top of their class from a highly competitive high school. They applied to college in a standard manner and the only payment we made to any university was for the processing of their applications. We are proud of their accomplishments.”
The FBI investigation, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, led to the filing of charges against 33 parents in March, including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Federal authorities said from the beginning that the investigation is ongoing, and that others could be charged.
An additional parent, Solana Beach businessman Jeffrey Bizzack, agreed in late June to plead guilty to a mail fraud conspiracy charge, admitting that he paid $250,000 to get his son into USC as a purported volleyball recruit.
Rick Singer admitted to hiring proctors to correct answers on students’ SAT and ACT tests. He also took bribes through his charitable organization, the Key Worldwide Foundation, which were funneled to college coaches. He admitted to creating fake athletic profiles for clients’ children, and using them to gain admission as athletes to USC, Georgetown, Stanford, Yale, and other schools.
Jennifer Salke was tapped to head Amazon Studios in February 2018, following an extensive search. She replaced Roy Price, who was ousted following allegations that he sexually harassed the executive producer of “Man in the High Castle.” She previously was entertainment president at NBC.