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Elisabeth Meyer-Kimmel, indicted San Diego media executive, worked as California attorney

A Southern California media executive swept up in a massive college admissions cheating scandal once worked as an attorney for an affluent Los Angeles-area law firm before taking the reigns at the local broadcast company once owned by her family.

Elisabeth Meyer-Kimmel, 54, worked as an attorney for the entertainment industry-focused law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp after graduating from Harvard Law School in the early 1990s, according to a review of records by The Desk.

Meyer-Kimmel worked for the law firm for three years before returning to the family-owned media company started by her father, Alfred Meyer, in San Diego, serving as the company’s president and general counsel for more than two decades.

At the time, the Meyer Family owned San Diego television station KFMB-TV (Channel 8), a CBS affiliate, along with two radio stations that bore the same call letters. In late 2017, Meyer-Kimmel orchestrated a sale of the broadcast properties her family owned for more than five decades to Virginia-based TEGNA for $325 million.

Before that sale closed, federal prosecutors say she and her husband, former San Diego Deputy District Attorney Gregory Kimmel, played a dangerous game in which they bribed college officials in exchange for securing admissions into prestigious colleges for their two children.

A photograph from Elisabeth Kimmel's Facebook page showing her son, Tommy, as he graduated from U.S.C. Photo: Facebook
A photograph from Elisabeth Meyer-Kimmel’s Facebook page showing her son, Tommy, as he graduated from U.S.C. Photo: Facebook

Those children, identified in Las Vegas media reports as Katharine Kimmel and Thomas “Tommy” Kimmel, likely did not know their parents were allegedly conspiring to cheat the academic admissions system. But federal prosecutors did, and they laid out their case against the Kimmels in a lengthy indictment released on Tuesday.

The indictment alleges Meyer-Kimmel arranged for hundreds of thousands of dollars to be paid to university coaches and other education officials in order to guarantee Katharine would be accepted to Georgetown University and Thomas would land at the University of Southern California (U.S.C.). Authorities say Meyer-Kimmel wrote checks from an account connected to the Meyer Charitable Foundation established by her father in amounts totaling over 500,000.

The scheme included pretending Meyer-Kimmel’s children were star athletes. According to the indictment, $275,000 was paid to a Georgetown University coach in exchange for an embellished athletic profile for Katharine, while $250,000 was paid to the operator of Key Worldwide Foundation, also known as The Key Worldwide or simply “The Key,” to concoct a complicated story that claimed her son Tommy was a high school pole vaulter with an impressive record.

That complicated story included creating a digitally-altered image that purported to show Tommy pole vaulting during a competition. The image was included in a profile that spoke highly of his athletic ability, prosecutors say. It was enough to fool U.S.C. admissions officials, though Tommy nearly blew the scheme wide open when a guidance counselor questioned his athletic abilities, the indictment says.

Tommy graduated from U.S.C. last year, according to numerous images reviewed by The Desk that were published on his mother’s Facebook page.

The charges against Meyer-Kimmel drew intense public scrutiny from media organizations in both San Diego, where the Kimmels once worked, and Las Vegas where they now live. Overlooked was the extensive legal history and knowledge both had going into the alleged scheme, which could work against them as the case now pivots from the FBI to federal court.

Elisabeth Meyer-Kimmel was first admitted to the State Bar in 1990, according to legal records reviewed by The Desk. Her license was active throughout her career, first at the firm and then at the local media company, until this January when her license became inactive. Gregory Kimmel’s license to practice was suspended by the California State Bar in 2007 for failure to pay unspecified fees; he was re-licensed in 2009 before his status returned to inactive one year later.

The State Bar says an “inactive” listing means an attorney has chosen the status voluntarily and may resume an active license after associated fees and other record-keeping processes are completed.

Though prosecutors suggested Meyer-Kimmel’s husband was generally aware of the college admissions scheme, he was not named in charging documents released by federal authorities on Tuesday and has not been accused of a crime. He currently works as an executive for Wireless Telematics, a lighting control company

This post has been updated to correct a grammatical error.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).