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Ex-USC Athletics Official Sentenced to Prison in Admissions Scandal Released

Ex-USC Athletics Official Sentenced to Prison in Admissions Scandal Released

LOS ANGELES—A former University of Southern California (USC) senior athletics administrator who was sentenced to six months behind bars for her role in the fraud and bribery scheme in which the children of wealthy parents gained admission to some of the country’s top universities as fake sports recruits has been released from custody, records show.

Donna Heinel, 61, was released from prison on July 5, according to federal court records.

Heinel pleaded guilty in November 2021 in Boston federal court to “honest services” wire fraud for arranging for more than two dozen students to get into the university in exchange for over $1.3 million in bribes.

Prosecutors wrote in court papers that Heinel “abused a position of trust in a manner that significantly facilitated the commission of the offense.”

As part of her sentence, Heinel was ordered to serve two years of supervised release after prison and pay forfeiture in the amount of $160,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

Heinel worked with the scheme’s organizer, William “Rick” Singer, to coordinate students’ admissions to the university as fake athletic recruits over a four-year period beginning in 2014.

Singer was sentenced in January to three and a half years in federal prison and ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. He was also ordered to forfeit $8.7 million in assets tied to the scheme.

According to the complaint filed in March 2019, Heinel, then a senior athletic department administrator, presented applicants to admissions committees in exchange for payments from Singer.

Before she entered into the plea deal, Heinel was heading to trial on a series of federal charges including conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and honest services mail and wire fraud. She faced up to 60 years behind bars if convicted on all counts, prosecutors noted.

A fo;e photo of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, Calif. on March 11, 2020. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images)

Almost 55 people were charged in the case, including nearly three dozen parents who subsequently pleaded guilty, including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli. Parents have received punishments ranging from probation to 15 months in prison.

Singer, the Newport Beach consultant at the center of the scheme, pleaded guilty in March 2019 to charges of racketeering, money laundering, fraud, and obstruction.

Heinel admitted to helping funnel cash to Singer and making $20,000 a month in a phony consulting deal with him.

In 2008, while working at the university, Heinel established a side business, Clear the Clearinghouse, wherein she advised high school administrators, for a fee of up to $700, on National Collegiate Athletic Association guidelines for athletes—a service that is usually available for free.

Heinel, who was let go by the university on the day she was indicted, listed her Long Beach home for just under $2 million in the wake of the scandal.

Three other members of USC’s athletics staff were also indicted in the “Operation Varsity Blues” investigation.

Ali Khosroshahin, a former head women’s soccer coach, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering and was sentenced to six months in home confinement.

Ex-water polo coach Jovan Vavic was convicted of bribery but was subsequently granted a new trial.

Former assistant women’s soccer coach Laura Janke pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit racketeering and was sentenced to time served and community service.

Also, Jorge Salcedo, a former men’s soccer coach at UCLA, was sentenced in March 2021 to eight months behind bars for his plea to a federal conspiracy count.

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