A financier charged in the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal that ensnared actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman has hit Netflix with a defamation lawsuit — calling his portrayal in a new documentary about the saga the “ultimate destruction” of his reputation.
John B. Wilson, who has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, his wife, Leslie Wilson, and son John B. Wilson Jr. filed the suit Tuesday in Superior Court in Essex, Mass., over the streaming giant’s recent doc “Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal.”
“They [the Wilson family] have been forced to endure the ultimate destruction of their reputations in the eyes of more than 200 million global Netflix subscribers,” wrote family attorney Howard Cooper of the 100-minute film that began streaming March 17.
Prior to the movie’s release, Wilson allegedly warned Netflix in writing and provided “publicly available and fully exculpatory facts,” insisting that he and his family shouldn’t “simply be grouped into a narrative” with co-defendants who have pleaded guilty.
The documentary, which uses actor recreations, centers around mastermind Rick Singer, who helped the wealthy get their kids into top schools by bribing officials and coaches to manufacture bogus test scores and/or pass the children off as athletes.
Wilson, who founded equity firm Hyannis Port Capital, is accused of paying more than $1.7 million to help get his three children into Harvard, Stanford and the University of Southern California.
But the dad says he only crossed paths with Singer after a financial advisory firm referred him to the notorious fraudster, who he thought was a “highly reputable college admissions counselor,” Cooper wrote.
The payments were “legitimate donations, in order to assist with (but not guarantee) the admission of his very qualified children to their preferred universities,” the lawsuit alleges.
Besides, Wilson’s kids were actually talented, the lawyer argued. Wilson’s son is a skilled water polo player who was part of the US Olympic development program, and his daughters both scored in the 99th percentile on their admissions tests, the filing claims.
Wilson says he even supplied Netflix with the results of a two-day polygraph test to show his innocence.
“Yet, Netflix and the other defendants knowingly and recklessly ignored those facts and painted the Wilsons with the broadest and dirtiest brush possible,” Cooper wrote.
The suit seeks an apology and unspecified money damages from Netflix and the doc’s producer Jon Karmen and director Chris Smith, who played a significant role in the hit film “FYRE” and the wildly popular docu-series “Tiger King.”
Singer, Wilson and about 50 others were arrested in March 2019 by the FBI. Wilson has proclaimed his innocence and is awaiting trial.
Meanwhile, Singer has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Many other parents — including “Full House” actress Loughlin and “Desperate Housewives” star Huffman — have admitted to their roles in the scandal and have served stints in jail.
Netflix didn’t immediately return a request for comment.