Thursday, October 29, 2020

Parent Charged in College Bribery Scheme Pleads Guilty

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A California entrepreneur pleaded guilty Wednesday to paying $250,000 to get his son into to the University of Southern California as a fake volleyball recruit.

Jeffrey Bizzack, of Solana Beach, California, was the 51st person to be charged in a sweeping scheme that involved rigging test scores and bribing coaches to get students into elite schools including Georgetown, Stanford and Yale universities. Bizzack is the 23rd defendant to plead guilty, while the others are fighting their charges.

Bizzack, 59, entered the plea to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in Boston’s federal court. As part of a plea deal with Bizzack, prosecutors are recommending nine months in prison, a $75,000 fine and other restitution to be decided during sentencing.

Authorities say Bizzack gave a total of $200,000 to a sham charity run by the admissions consultant at the center of the scheme and sent a $50,000 check to the USC “Galen Center,” a campus sports arena, to have his son designated as a recruit for the volleyball team. His son was formally accepted in March 2018.

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The consultant, Rick Singer, then made monthly payments of $20,000 to USC’s then-senior associate athletic director, Donna Heinel, for her help getting Bizzack’s son and other children of prominent parents into the school.

Related: Basketball: Former assistance coach Person avoids prison in college bribery sentencing

Heinel has pleaded not guilty in the case. Singer pleaded guilty in March and helped build the case against parents and others accused in the scheme.

When asked by a federal judge about the prosecution’s account Wednesday, Bizzack said it was accurate to the best of his knowledge. Bizzack described himself as an entrepreneur who has worked in the tech and surfing industries. He said little else as the judge formally accepted his guilty plea.

He was released following the hearing and is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 30. The maximum he could face is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

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In June, when Bizzack’s plea deal was announced, his lawyers said he deeply regrets his actions and the effect it will have on his son. They said his son had no knowledge of the arrangement to get him accepted to USC.

Bizzack is among 15 parents that have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme, including “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman, who admitted to paying $15,000 to have someone correct the answers on her daughter’s SAT.

Those fighting the charges include “Full House” star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters into USC as fake crew recruits. They are scheduled to appear in court in August.

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