Flaxman among those charged in college bribery scandal

Robert Flaxman (File photo)

A prominent Valley developer credited with both spearheading the Mountain Shadows redevelopment and Omni Scottsdale resorts is one of 50 people charged in a nationwide college admissions scam.

Crown Realty & Development CEO Robert Flaxman is among the parents and college officials named by federal prosecutors as having taken part in a scheme that involved cheating on standardized tests or bribing college coaches and school officials to accept students.

A press release issued March 12 by United States Department of Justice announced the arrest of dozens of individuals in multiple states.

Those arrested were charged with allegedly being involved in a nationwide conspiracy.

Mr. Flaxman was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, documents show. Mr. Flaxman’s initial appearance in federal court in Boston is set for 2:30 p.m. March 29, before Judge M. Page Kelley.

Court documents released on March 12 state Mr. Flaxman participated in both the college recruitment scheme and the college entrance exam scheme in or about 2016.

Federal documents state Mr. Flaxman is a resident of Beverly Hills, California, and CEO of a Los Angeles-based real estate development firm.

Crown Realty & Development was established in 1994 by Mr. Flaxman and Jamie Sohacheski, its website states. The firm is headquartered in Costa Mesa, California, with California offices in Beverly Hills, Burbank and an Arizona office in the Town of Paradise Valley.

In January, the Independent reported Crown Realty won a $54 million bid — on land with an estimated value of $121 million — in United States Bankruptcy Court District of Arizona entitling the real estate firm to 96.5 acres and exclusive Master Developer Rights on nearly 6,000 acres of state trust land, at Desert Ridge from roughly State Route 51 to 64th Street and on both sides of Loop 101.

The son

Mr. Flaxman is accused of paying $250,000 to get his son admitted to University of San Diego as an athlete.

The following information was provided through federal court documents:

On or about Oct. 25, 2015, a witness known as “CW-1” in the court documents emailed Mr. Flaxman’s son’s ACT scores and transcript to Martin Fox, who forwarded the materials to a varsity coach at UCD.

On or about Oct. 26, 2015, CW-1 emailed Mr. Flaxman that he “spoke to USD and they received [your son’s] info. They are interested in helping.”

The following month, Mr. Flaxman emailed CW-1 asking for an update on the status of his son’s admission to USD. CW-1 replied: “The coach I am working with has not gotten his scheduled appointment with Admissions for all of his recruitable athletes. He is on board to help and has [your son’s] materials. I am sure I will receive a call on next steps soon.”

On Nov. 12, 2015, a USD admissions counselor emailed the varsity coach a memorandum giving the coach approval to sign Mr. Flaxman’s son to the coach’s team.

On or about Nov. 16, 2015, CW-1 emailed Mr. Flaxman and his son. The subject line of the email was: “Here is what I came up with that touches on a lot of who you are and what I put on your application.”

The alleged essay, and the application ultimately submitted to USD, referenced Mr. Flaxman’s son’s purported volunteer work as the manager of an elite youth athletic team. Prior essay drafts contained no references to that sport, the documents state.

Mr. Flaxman’s son was formally admitted to USD on or about March 7, 2016.

In April 2016, a KWF employee e-mailed Mr. Flaxman an invoice in the amount of $250,000, with a cover email describing the invoice as a “courtesy reminder of the pledge made to [KWF].”

Mr. Flaxman ultimately requested to make two payments, one in May and one in June, after receiving a revised request that included 501(c)3 information for tax purposes.

On or about May 13, 2016 and June 23, 2016, Mr. Flaxman’s company wired two payments of $125,000 each to KWF.

In June 2016, CW-1 caused KWF to issue a payment of $100,000 to Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox advised CW-1 that he, in turn, paid the USD coach or facilitating Mr. Flaxman’s son’s admission.

The daughter

Additionally, Mr. Flaxman is accused of paying $75,000 for assisting his daughter on her ACT exam.

The following information was provided through federal court documents:

In or about April 2016, Mr. Flaxman’s daughter took the standardized ACT test, and received a score of 20 out of a possible 36.

On or about Sept. 12, 2016, Mr. Flaxman emailed CW-1 that his daughter took the “ACT this weekend and thought she did better than the last time. She actually finished the exam.”

Mr. Flaxman’s daughter received a score of 24 on the September test, the documents stated.

On or about Oct. 4, 2016, CW-1 emailed Mr. Flaxman that his contact at ACT “has the paperwork and will put [your daughter] into [the Houston Test Center] for Oct.”

Mr. Flaxman replied: “Ok. I will need details soon. Address. Who and where to check in and what instructions we need to give [my daughter] to use at the test.”

On or about Oct. 6, 2016, CW-1 emailed Mr. Flaxman the address of the Houston Test Center and contact information for the test center administrator, Niki Williams.

On or about Oct. 15, 2016, CW-1 directed a KWF employee to send invoices to Mr. Flaxman and another client in the amount of $75,000 each. CW-1 further instructed the employee to send $50,000 to Mr. Fox and $20,000 to a second witness, known as CW-2.

CW-1 has advised law enforcement agents that the payments were for Mr. Fox’s facilitation of CW-1’s relationship with Ms. Williams, as well as for CW-2’s purported proctoring of the exam for Mr. Flaxman’s daughter and the child of CW-1’s other client.

On or about Oct. 20, 2016, Mr. Flaxman’s company wired $75,000 to KWF. On or about Oct. 21, 2016, a KWF employee sent Mr. Flaxman a letter falsely attesting that “no goods or services were exchanged” for the purported contribution.

CW-2 flew from Tampa to Houston on or about Oct. 21, 2016. The following day, Mr. Flaxman’s daughter and the child of another client of CW-1 both took the ACT at the Houston Test Center.

CW-2 has advised investigators that he assisted Mr. Flaxman’s daughter and the other student to answer questions on the exam, and instructed them to answer different questions incorrectly so that they did not have the same incorrect answers on their tests, and the ACT would therefore not suspect cheating.

Mr. Flaxman’s daughter received a score of 28 on the ACT exam.

On or about Oct. 23, 2018, CW-1 called Mr. Flaxman at the direction of law enforcement agents and told him that KWF was being audited by the IRS.

The call was reportedly consensually recorded, and Mr. Flaxman and CW-1 agreed both payments for his son and his daughter were to be attributed to a foundation to help under-served kids.

The cooperating witnesses, CW-1 and CW-2, have both agreed to plead guilty in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

CW-1 founded and, together with others, operated The Edge College and Career Network, LLC, also known as The Key and The Key Worldwide Foundation, known as KWF.

CW-2 is an individual who participated in the scheme. CW-2 was employed at relevant times as the director of college entrance exam preparation at a private college preparatory school and sports academy in Bradenton, Florida.

Martin Fox has been indicted by a federal grand jury in the District of Massachusetts on a charge of racketeering conspiracy.

News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be reached by e-mail at mrosequist@newszap.com or follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Mrosequist_

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