The former sports administrator at the University of Southern California has agreed to plead guilty to being involved in a large-scale admissions scheme for prestigious universities as fake recruits of athletes in exchange for bribes.
Administrator Donna Heinel is expected to appear in Boston federal court Friday morning to file a plea, less than two weeks before she was due to appear in court in the case. The investigation, known as Operation Varsity Blues, identified a corrupt private college consultant, William Singer, who worked with coaches, test administrators and wealthy parents willing to pay thousands of dollars in bribes to get their children enrolled in some of the nation’s top universities.
Dr. Heinel received more than $ 1.3 million in bribes, according to federal prosecutors.
Her plea came about a month after two parents, Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive, and John Wilson, a private equity financier, were convicted by a federal jury in Boston; they were the first to appear before the court in the case.
Dr. Heinel was directly involved in the case of Mr. Abdelaziz. Prosecutors said she helped Mr. Abdelaziz’s daughter enroll in USC in 2018 as a basketball recruit, although she did not make it to the school team. Prosecutors said that Mr. Abdelaziz subsequently sent $ 300,000 to a fund controlled by Mr. Singer. Several months later, according to court documents, Mr. Singer began paying Dr. Heinel $ 20,000 a month in exchange for her help to make life easier for Mr. Abdelaziz’s daughter and the children of Mr. Singer’s other clients. Mr. Abdelaziz’s daughter has never joined the USC basketball team.
Jeffrey Cohen, a former federal prosecutor, said Friday that Mr Abdelaziz’s conviction could have pushed Dr. Heinel into a plea agreement.
“The accused of implication now admit that Abdelaziz’s arguments are unlikely to convince the jury, namely that it was part of the normal admission process and nothing corrupt,” Mr. Cohen said. “Faced with this realization, it will be difficult for the defense to articulate a defense, especially for coaches who are part of the university and not outsiders.”
The investigation recruited more than 50 parents, coaches, exam administrators and others to an admissions scheme that affected college athletic programs at the University of Southern California, Yale, Stanford, Wake Forest and Georgetown. Most of them pleaded guilty rather than risked in court.