A California man who admitted to federal prosecutors that he paid a college admissions consultant $400,000 and a university official $50,000 to secure his two children places at the University of Southern California will spend six months behind bars. The former insurance executive learned of his fate during a sentencing hearing held in a Massachusetts district court on Nov. 11. His sentence is the harshest yet handed down to parents connected to a major college admissions scandal.
The man pleaded guilty in June to fraud charges when it became clear that the consultant behind the college admissions scheme was cooperating with authorities. He confessed to paying the consultant $200,000 to create bogus athletic credentials that led USC to believe his daughter was an All American soccer star and his son was a talented basketball player. The man told prosecutors that he also paid a former USC official $50,000 to ensure that the fraudulent credentials were not questioned.
Prosecutors say the man deserved a harsher sentence than other parents due to the amount of money involved and because he claimed that the payments were legitimate business expenses on his tax returns. The man has since sent the IRS more than $80,000 according to his attorney. Prosecutors were not swayed when the man told them his error of judgement came at a low point in his life and had cost him both his job and business license.
While the man’s sentence was more severe than the penalties handed down to other parents connected to the scandal, it was still significantly shorter than the maximum prison term allowed under federal law. U.S. attorneys work under great pressure and are expected to secure a conviction when they take cases to court, which is why they will often offer significant sentence reductions in return for a guilty plea. In cases involving federal crimes, experienced criminal defense attorneys may advise their clients to think carefully before declining a plea offers made by U.S. attorneys when the evidence against them is strong. When the evidence is questionable or their clients maintain their innocence, attorneys might suggest arguing the facts before a jury.