Former USC official pleads guilty in college bribery scheme

Nov 5, 2021, 3:45 AM | Updated: 3:46 pm

BOSTON (AP) — A former athletics official at the University of Southern California pleaded guilty Friday to her role in the college admissions bribery scandal, legal filings show.

Donna Heinel, the school’s former senior associate athletic director, pleaded in U.S. District Court in Boston, where the wide-ranging prosecution is based, to one count of honest services wire fraud, The Boston Globe reported, citing records.

Prosecutors agreed to drop several other charges in exchange for her guilty plea, according to court documents.

An indictment accused Heinel and others of taking bribes from the scheme’s admitted ringleader, Rick Singer, “to designate students as recruited athletes,” even though the students weren’t qualified, the Globe reported.

Heinel remains free on bond until sentencing in March. The count to which she pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but she would probably not face such a severe sentence as a first-time offender.

Her lawyers didn’t respond to a request for comment from the Globe.

More than 40 people have pleaded guilty in the scheme, which involved wealthy parents paying bribes to Singer to get their children into top colleges by falsely presenting them as athletic recruits. Among those pleading guilty were Hollywood actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

In the first trial stemming from the investigation, federal jurors last month convicted two parents of participating in the scheme.

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Former USC official pleads guilty in college bribery scheme