Miami Developer Robert Zangrillo Hit With More Charges in College Bribery Scandal

Robert Zangrillo (right) with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez.
Robert Zangrillo (right) with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. Robert Zangrillo / Instagram
Robert Zangrillo, one of the main investors behind a controversial luxury development in Little Haiti, was hit today with new charges in the college admissions cheating scandal. In addition to being charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud, he has now been indicted for conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering.

The CEO of Dragon Global is among 16 parents — including Full House's Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli — facing additional charges in the massive federal case. The extra charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to prosecutors.  "Operation Varsity Blues," as the investigation was named, uncovered the largest college admissions conspiracy ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice. At least 50 people are alleged to have been involved in the scheme, in which a so-called counseling service, Edge College and Career Network, helped rich people bribe their kids' way into schools they weren't qualified to attend.

Zangrillo, age 52, was allegedly recorded directing Edge's CEO, William "Rick" Singer, to make his daughter look like an accomplished rower, falsify her high-school transcripts, and arrange for an employee to take biology class for her. As a result, she gained admission to the University of Southern California after initially being rejected.

Also allegedly caught on tape: Zangrillo arranging a $200,000 so-called donation to an Edge charity the feds called fraudulent, as well as a $500 gift to the USC women's athletic department.

The wealthy developer — and apparent enthusiast of wild parties with body-painted women and fire throwers — made his first court appearance March 29. He posted $50,000 bond and agreed to surrender his passport. Because of his entanglement in the scandal, he stepped back from his role in the $1 billion Magic City Innovation District project, which seeks to transform Little Haiti from a historically black, immigrant enclave into a collection of luxury high-rises.

Miami commissioners gave the development initial approval earlier this month despite concerns raised by residents and activists that it would further gentrify Little Haiti, one of the few pockets of affordable housing remaining in Miami-Dade County.
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Brittany Shammas is a former staff writer at Miami New Times. She covered education in Naples before taking a job at the South Florida Sun Sentinel. She joined New Times in 2016.
Contact: Brittany Shammas