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Credit: Annie Luo

The FBI obtained evidence of the 2019 national college admissions scandal from Phillip Esformes, the parent who bribed a former coach to help ensure his son's admission to Penn, three years before the scandal broke.

Agents seized the iPhone Esformes used to text Richard Singer, the college consultant at the center of the admissions scandal, in 2016 while investigating Esformes for healthcare fraud, the Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday. Esformes has not been charged in the college admissions case. Federal authorities later discovered Esformes paid Singer to help his oldest child gain admission to the University of Southern California and fix his third child's college entrance exam scores, according to the LA Times.

In his text messages to Singer, Esformes asked about his son’s chances of admission to Penn given his SAT score at the time. According to the LA Times, Esformes asked Singer what score "gets u in all?" and Singer replied that colleges hold recruited athletes at a lower test-score standard than other applicants.

Esformes later bribed former Penn men's basketball star and basketball head coach Jerome Allen $300,000 to recruit his son, 2019 Wharton graduate Morris Esformes, as a basketball player, according to Allen's testimony.

“I got his son into Penn; I got his son into Wharton. None of that would have happened without me," Allen testified in March, according to the Miami Herald.

Esformes was found guilty on 20 charges in April, a month after Allen's testimony, and has since been in custody. The LA Times reported a judge considered Esformes a flight risk and denied him bail.

Penn was not implicated in the national scandal, and there is no evidence that Esformes paid Singer to aid his son's admission to Wharton. Over several years, however, Esformes gave $400,000 to Singer's charity. Esformes also paid Singer in 2012 to help his oldest child get into USC as a fake soccer recruit, the LA Times reported. 

While authorities discovered texts between Esformes and Singer in 2016, a different case led investigators to Singer in 2018, the LA Times reported. This case resulted in charges from the Justice Department against 50 people in connection with the national college admission scam.