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Two years after the college admissions scandal broke in March 2019, the mastermind behind the enterprise — William "Rick" Singer — has yet to face his day in court for sentencing despite pleading guilty to fraud, racketeering and money laundering charges.
Singer is portrayed as an elusive figure in a new Netflix documentary, Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal, that centers largely on Singer, who's played by Matthew Modine in reenacted segments, with dialogue lifted directly from the FBI's transcripts of taped calls and wiretapped conversations.
"It was surprising to me just how little there was available about him," director Chris Smith tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "The wiretap transcripts ended up being invaluable. We really got to know him through the interactions that he had with the parents."
For more about Rick Singer, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Singer began his career as a high school basketball coach before he pivoted to college counseling, opening two companies in 1992 and 2004.
"Through his coaching practice," says Smith, "he saw a greater opportunity, which was to utilize coaches at universities as a way to gain access through what he called the 'side door.'"
Between 2011 and 2018, parents paid Singer $25 million for "side door" access via various methods, including paying someone to correct students' answers on their ACT and SATs and having coaches assert that students were recruits for the school's sports teams.
(Both of Lori Loughlin's daughters were famously admitted to USC on the false premise of being crew team athletes.)
Since Singer cooperated with the FBI to provide information on the parents and coaches involved, he's expected to get minimal if any prison time.
"The children were victims in all of this," says Modine. "The parents didn't have the confidence in their children to succeed on their own merit."
Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal is available to stream on Netflix.