Developer with Arizona ties charged in college cheating scandal

Mar 13, 2019, 7:25 AM | Updated: Mar 14, 2019, 11:10 am
Robert Flaxman (L) and artist Kadir Lopez attend Kadir Lopez's Art Show on August 12, 2016 in West ...
Robert Flaxman (L) and artist Kadir Lopez attend Kadir Lopez's Art Show on August 12, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Getty Images/ Matt Winkelmeyer)
(Getty Images/ Matt Winkelmeyer)

PHOENIX – A West Coast developer with strong ties to Arizona has been charged in a college bribery scandal that snagged celebrities and other wealthy parents determined to get their children into elite schools.

Robert Flaxman, whose Crown Realty and Development whose Crown Realty and Development was developed the Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale, was accused by the federal government of paying $350,000 so his son would be admitted to the University of San Diego and his daughter would score better on a college entrance exam.

Court documents showed that the FBI said Flaxman “participated in both the college recruitment scheme and the college entrance exam scheme” in 2016.

“Flaxman could potentially see jail time,” KTAR News 92.3 FM‘s legal analyst Monica Lindstrom said.

“It depends on any plea agreement he enters into, his criminal background and the strength of the evidence against him,” Lindstrom said.

Flaxman’s company recently acquired the rights to develop in north Phoenix’s Desert Ridge master-planned community for $54 million. The company once owned the property that would eventually become Mountain Shadows again in Paradise Valley but sold it in 2015.

Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were also among the 50 indicted Tuesday on conspiracy to commit fraud and honest services mail fraud, paying an estimated $25 million in bribes.

Consultant William Singer, founder of the Edge College & Career Network (aka “the Key”), allegedly made up profiles for the daughters and sons to improve their chances of admission.

Singer also allegedly hired ringers to take college entrance exams for students, and paid off insiders at testing centers to alter students’ scores.

Authorities called it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department.

On or about November 16, 2015, CW-1 e-mailed FLAXMAN and his son. The subject line of the e-mail 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 essay, and the application ultimately submitted to USD, referenced 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.

Another part of the government file read:

On or about April 22, 2016, a KWF employee e-mailed FLAXMAN an invoice in the amount of $250,000. The cover e-mail described the invoice as a “courtesy reminder of the pledge made to [KWF].” On or about May 9, 2016, the KWF employee e-mailed FLAXMAN again: “Hi Bob, We have some obligations that we must meet. When can we count on your payment?” FLAXMAN replied that he “was supposed to receive [a] revised request that included 501(c)3 info for tax purposes. I would like to make two payments. One now and one end of June.”

The document also said that on or about May 13, 2016 and June 23, 2016, Flaxman’s company wired two payments of $125,000 apiece to Key Worldwide Financial.

Flaxman’s son was admitted to the private school.

The parents focused on schools such as Stanford, Yale, UCLA, University of Southern California, Georgetown and Harvard, among them.

Neither Arizona State University or the University of Arizona were among the choices.

Loughlin’s husband, clothing line founder Mossimo Giannulli, told a recruiter he wanted to make sure they “have a road map for success as it relates to [our daughter] and getting her into a school other than ASU!”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed Robert Flaxman and Crown Realty as developer of Mountain Shadows Resort.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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