College admissions scandal indictment alleges use of fake USC football profiles for students
The wildest college athletics scandal of the offseason allegedly involves a high-ranking USC official
News of a wide-ranging fraud investigation involving a man who created fake athletic profiles for kids in order to gain entry into prestigious colleges broke on Tuesday morning, and it indirectly involves the USC football program. According to an FBI criminal complaint. USC senior women's athletic director Donna Heinel has been indicted on a charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering as part of the complaint.
Heinel allegedly received bribes totaling around $1.3 million for her part in the scheme -- code-named "Operation Varsity Blues" by the FBI -- which included students posing as football players (as well as players in other sports) to get into the school. Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday evening that Heinel and water polo coach Jovan Vavic have been fired by USC for their involvement in the admissions scandal.
The FBI alleges that Singer [identified as CW-1] and defendant William McGlashan allegedly positioned McGlashan's son as a walk-on kicker for the USC football team.
Here's a excerpt from the indictment, including a voicemail from Singer to McGlashan:
145. McGLASHAN and CW-1 continued to have additional telephone discussions about the "side door" scheme throughout August 2018, not just with respect to USC but also with respect to Stanford University. The conversations were intercepted pursuant to a Court authorized wiretap. On or about August 22, 2018, CW-1 left McGLASHAN a voicemail message explaining, in substance, that CW-1 would create a fake football profile using Photoshop software, which would allow McGLASHAN's son to be admitted as a purported football recruit.
"CW-1: Hey Bill, so we're gonna-- met with [USC], because the [high school your son attends] does not have a football team, I'm gonna make him a kicker/punter and they're gonna walk him through with football, and I'll get a picture and figure out how to Photoshop and stuff, so it looks like it and the guy who runs the biggest kicking camp is a good friend, so we'll put a bunch of stuff about that on his profile, and we should be in pretty good shape to get that done. It's just a matter of, when I get the profile done, get it to them and figure out when they're gonna have a subcommittee meeting, so I'll let you know. Stanford said no, too tough, grades too low, just don't want to make that an exception right now for him. So I wanted you to know that as well, and then I think I'm seeing you next Tuesday, so if there's anything you need from me just let me know. See ya. Bye-bye."
In another instance, Marci Palatella allegedly used Singer to help her son get into USC as a fake long-snapper and defensive lineman.
343. On or about July 27, 2017, approximately four months after engaging in the SAT cheating scheme, PALATELLA e-mailed CW-1 a photo of her son in his football uniform and asked, "Will this work?" CW-1 forwarded the photo to Janke, together with PALATELLA's son's grades and test scores, which included the fraudulently obtained SAT score. Janke created a football profile for PALATELLA's son that falsely described him, among other things, as an active player on his high school football team as a member of the "defensive line" and a "long snapper" and as a member of several local and statewide championship teams between 2015 and 2017.
344. Heinel presented PALATELLA's son to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions as a purported football recruit on or about November 16, 2017, falsely describing him as a long snapper.
Another football-related aspect of the case involves Douglas Hodge, who allegedly diversified his son's fake athletic profile to include football and tennis.
422. On or about February 2, 2015, Janke e-mailed Heinel that HODGE "is on his way to Japan for work so he asked me to send these over to you as he did not have your email on him but wanted to get these to you ASAP." Attached to the e-mail were the two falsified athletic profiles. Heinel replied with the athletic profile of a different student with a note that said "an example of football." In a separate e-mail, bearing the subject line "Suggestions," Heinel provided handwritten edits to the football profile and indicated that the photograph included on the profile should be exchanged for a "better picture" that was "more athletic."
423. Heinel presented HODGE's son to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions as a purported football recruit on or about February 12, 2015.
USC interim president Wanda M. Austin issued a statement on the indictment Tuesday afternoon.
"We are aware of the ongoing wide-ranking criminal investigation involving universities nationwide, including USC," the statement read. "USC has not been accused of any wrong doing and will continue to cooperate fully with the government's investigation. We understand that the government believes that illegal activity was carried out by individuals who went to great lengths to conceal their actions from the university. USC is conducting an internal investigation and will take employment actions as appropriate. USC is in the process of identifying any funds received by the university in connection with this alleged scheme. Additionally, the university is reviewing its admissions process broadly to ensure that such actions do not occur going forward."
There is nothing in the indictment that alleges anybody directly associated with the USC football team itself had any knowledge of the scheme.
In addition to people associated with USC, indictments in the complaint range from Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, successful businessmen and businesswomen, and coaches and administrators at several other colleges including Stanford, UCLA, Texas, Yale, Georgetown and Wake Forest.
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