Liquor distribution exec to plead guilty in college scam

Aug 23, 2021, 10:05 PM | Updated: Aug 24, 2021, 10:06 am

BOSTON (AP) — The chief executive officer of a California liquor distribution company has agreed to plead guilty in the college admissions bribery scheme less than a month before she was scheduled to face trial, according to court records filed Tuesday.

Marci Palatella will be the 33rd parent to admit to charges in the case that revealed a scheme in which wealthy parents paid big money to get their kids into top schools across the country.

Her plea deal with prosecutors calls for her to serve six weeks behind bars and pay a $250,000 fine. She also agreed to perform 500 hours of community service and serve two years of supervised release, with the first six months in home confinement, according to the plea deal, which must be accepted by a judge.

Palatella was scheduled to face jurors next month alongside two other parents in the first trial since the so-called “Operation Varsity Blues” case was first brought in March 2019.

The Hillsborough, California, woman will admit to paying $500,000 to get her son into the University of Southern California as a football recruit even though he wouldn’t really play on the team, prosecutors said.

Emails seeking comment were sent to her lawyers on Tuesday.

She will plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud. Prosecutors have agreed to dismiss the other charge she was facing — conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery — in exchange for her guilty plea.

Palatella was among 50 parents, athletic coaches and others charged in the case in 2019 that embroiled elite universities across the country.

Only a handful of parents are still fighting the charges. More than 30 other parents have pleaded guilty, including TV actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli.

The two parents headed for trial next month — Gamal Abdelaziz and John Wilson — are also accused of paying bribes to get their kids into the University of Southern California as bogus athletic recruits.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Sept. 8.

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Liquor distribution exec to plead guilty in college scam