Mom gets 5 weeks in prison for son's online class cheating

LOS ANGELES -- A California woman who paid $9,000 to have someone secretly take online college courses for her son and then demanded a discount when he received a C was sentenced Wednesday to five weeks in prison.

Karen Littlefair, 57, said she's “truly sorry” for her actions and asked the judge for leniency, calling the experience a “nightmare” for her family.

“I acted out of love for my son but I ended up hurting my son greatly," said Littlefair, who appeared via videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Littlefair is among more than 50 people charged in the college cheating scheme involving wealthy parents and athletic coaches at elite universities across the country. Authorities say the parents worked with the admissions consultant at the center of the scam, Rick Singer, to have someone cheat on their kids' exams or get them admitted to selective schools with fake athletic credentials.

After Littlefair's son was put on academic probation by Georgetown University, she hired Singer's company to take four online classes on his behalf so he could graduate in 2018, prosecutors said. Three of the courses were taken through Georgetown, prosecutors said, while one was taken online at Arizona State University and then transferred to Georgetown.

Littlefair sought a discount on the cheating after the person earned a C in one of the courses, authorities said.

“Kind of thought there would have been a discount on that one. The grade was a C and the experience was a nightmare," she told Singer's accountant in an email, according to court documents.

U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs told Littlefair she taught her son “it’s OK to cheat, it’s OK to take shortcuts.”

“You’re supposed to get more by earning it and working for it and I think that’s a lesson your son needs to learn and sadly he's going to learn it the hard way here,” the judge said.

Prosecutors had sought four months in prison. Littlefair’s lawyer told the judge she deserves probation. The Newport Beach, California, woman pleaded guilty in January to a count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Nearly 30 parents have pleaded guilty in the case.

Another parent, former Canadian Football League player David Sidoo, is scheduled to be sentenced later Wednesday for paying $200,000 to have someone take a college entrance exam in place of his two sons. Sidoo also worked with Singer to concoct a bogus story in one of his son's admission essays about the teen being held at gunpoint by Los Angeles gang members and saved by a rival gang member named “Nugget,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors and the defense have agreed to a sentence of 90 days behind bars.

Other parents charged in the case are “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who admitted to paying half a million dollars to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as fake crew recruits.

They are scheduled to be sentenced next month. If the judge accepts their plea deals, Loughlin will be sentenced to two months in prison and Giannulli will be sentenced to five months.