close 'Varsity Blues' college admissions scandal mastermind Rick Singer arrives for sentencing Video

‘Varsity Blues’ college admissions scandal mastermind Rick Singer arrives for sentencing

Rick Singer, architect of the "Operation Varsity Blues" college admissions scandal, arrived Wednesday at federal court in Boston, where he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. (WCVB via AP)

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FIRST ON FOX: A Massachusetts dad who was cleared of wrongdoing in an infamous college admissions bribery scandal is suing Netflix over a documentary his lawyers say defamed him and his son and daughters.

Massachusetts executive John Wilson, 64, had his convictions of fraud and bribery thrown out after successful appeals last year. He had been accused of paying more than $1.2 million to arrange for his three children to make their way into the University of Southern California, Stanford and Harvard.

“Netflix willingly chose to group my highly qualified children and me into a scandal involving celebrities who, unlike me, pleaded guilty and acknowledged their roles in shameful actions like Photoshopping images of fake athletes, cheating on tests and making bribe payments to coaches,” Wilson said in a statement. “In the interest of justice and accountability, Netflix must pay for the deliberate and devastating harm that they’ve done to my family.”


John Wilson leaves Federal Court in Boston

Private equity firm founder John Wilson, whose charges of participating in a scheme to pay bribes to fraudulently secure the admission of his children to top schools were thrown out on appeal, leaves federal court in Boston, Feb. 16, 2022. (Reuters/Katherine Taylor)

According to the lawsuit, he made only legitimate charitable donations and his children were qualified applicants.

“From 2019 to 2023, Mr. Wilson was subjected to an unfair and legally invalid prosecution in the ‘Varsity Blues’ case brought in federal court in Boston,” his attorneys, William Tanenbaum and Howard Cooper, wrote in the civil complaint. 

Netflix’s documentary “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admission Scandal” portrayed his son as a fake water polo athlete looking for a no-show roster spot to gain admission to USC, the lawsuit alleges. But John Wilson Jr. held a swimming record and caught the attention of recruiters from other NCAA Division I schools, including the Air Force Academy, according to the filing.


John Wilson Jr water polo

According to the lawsuit, this photo shows John Wilson Jr. in a legitimate water polo competition in 2013 – a photo that the Wilsons say they sent to Netflix before the “Varsity Blues” documentary portrayed the images as fakes. (John Wilson)

He appeared on “The Oprah Show” as a youth after becoming the youngest person to swim from the Alcatraz to San Francisco in an exhibition that raised $50,000 for Hurricane Katrina victims, the lawsuit reads.

“Johnny’s high school coach, himself an NCAA two-time MVP, recommended him to the USC coaches, and the Wilsons did not take any fake photos – contrary to what Netflix depicted,” Wilson’s lawyers said in a statement. 

Netflix 'Varsity Blues' trailer screenshot

A screenshot from the movie’s trailer shows someone doctoring a water polo image in Photoshop. (Netflix)

The lawsuit alleges that the documentary “depicted false narratives” about Wilson and his children even when he gave the producers “substantial evidence.”

One scene in the trailer shows someone editing a photograph of a water polo player, depicted as Wilson Jr. The image even has a Getty Images watermark.

Varsity Blue sentancing

Varsity Blues mastermind William “Rick” Singer leaves the Moakley Courthouse after being sentenced to 3.5 years in jail on Jan. 4, 2023, in Boston. (Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald via Getty Images)

“Netflix superimposed Mr. Wilson’s name and voice over a scene depicting other actors Photoshopping fake water polo photos of a non-athlete child, conduct that was never alleged against Mr. Wilson,” the family’s lawyers said in a statement. 

Wilson Jr. scored in the 93rd percentile on the ACT exam and his sisters each achieved “perfect and near perfect” results on the test, according to the lawsuit. Their father also kept receipts showing his donations went to college foundations and IRS-certified charities and not bribe recipients.

Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin Arrive At Boston Court For College Cheating Case

Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, left, leave the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston on April 3, 2019. They were among the parents charged in a massive college admissions cheating scandal. (Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)


The appellate court upheld Wilson’s conviction on a tax filing charge and fined him $75,000.

The fallout from the “Varsity Blues” scandal sent several prominent figures to prison, including celebrities like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman and the mastermind behind the plot, Rick Singer.


Singer received a sentence of 42 months behind bars last year for charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, fraud and money laundering.

Netflix did not respond to a request for comment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Michael Ruiz is a reporter for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to [email protected] and on Twitter: @mikerreports

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