Former college administrator agrees to plead guilty to charges related to admissions bribery scheme

A former official at the University of Southern California (USC) pleaded guilty on Friday to charges that she received $1.3 million in bribes as part of a college admission scandal that exploded last year. 

According to the Washington Examiner, Donna Heinel admitted to participation in the scheme, and entered her plea in Boston federal court with less than two weeks until the case would have gone to trial.

Prosecutors named Heinel as the administrator who helped get the daughter of casino owner Gamal Abdelaziz into the school as a basketball recruit, and said she received $20,000 a month for doing so, the Examiner reports.

Abdelaziz was found guilty along with dozens of others last week in the scandal. The initial indictments were announced in March 2019, including Heinel’s indictment, following an investigation in 2018.

Administrator fired

Heinel was fired from her job at the college along with water polo coach Jovan Vavic, who was also allegedly involved, the Examiner said.

The scheme, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, was allegedly spearheaded by college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer to the tune of $25 million. He has already pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators.

The case first made headlines when some high-profile and celebrity parents were arrested for paying off administrators at various schools including USC by making large donations through Singer’s nonprofit. Some also paid to have their students’ SAT or ACT scores falsified so that they would meet admission criteria.

Singer would then get them admitted to the school on a sports scholarship for a lesser known sport like fencing, crew, or water polo, even though many of the students never played those sports in high school or anywhere else before.

Celebrities caught in snare

Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her husband famously spent a brief time in jail for being part of the scheme and getting their daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli, into USC.

Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives fame was also implicated in the scheme, according to The New York Times.

Netflix released a documentary on the scandal earlier this year that detailed some of what happened.

About 50 families and a number of administrators have been charged by the Justice Department with racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax fraud.

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