BOSTON (CBS SF/AP) — A Hillsborough couple formally pleaded guilty Wednesday and face years in federal prison after paying $600,000 to help their kids cheat their way into a seat at top universities.
Bruce and Davina Isackson, of Hillsborough, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Bruce Isackson also pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Patti B. Saris scheduled sentencing for July 31, 2019.
- Bruce Jackson: Plea Agreement | Letter of Cooperation
- Davina Jackson: Plea Agreement | Letter of Cooperation
The charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater.
The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the money laundering.
The charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States provides for a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.
The US Attorney’s office will not be seeking any additional charges against the couple and recommended sentences at the low end of the guidelines. Prosecutors will suggest a sentence of 37-46 months in prison for Bruce Isackson and 27-33 months for Davina Isackson at their sentencing hearing July 31.
The Isacksons were accused of paying an admissions consultant to get their two daughters into the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California for sports they didn’t play in the so-called Varsity Blues scandal. Authorities said they also paid to boost one of the girl’s entrance exam scores.
The plea deal was reached in early April and they became the first parents to formally enter a plea in a Boston courtroom on Wednesday.
Former U.S. Attorney Tony Brass talked to KPIX 5 about the Isackson’s guilty pleas.
“They’re going to get credit for cooperating. But how much that credit is worth depends on how much they can advance the ball against someone else in the case,” said Brass. “If they are able to give the federal government real cooperation, they can cut [their sentence] by as much as half. But that depends. If you consider justice the fact that they can bring other people to justice, then that’s fair. But I do believe they’re looking at some real punishment here.”
Brass says it’s not unusual for judges to issue staggered sentences, when both parents are implicated in a crime, so that only one parent is incarcerated at a time.
“Hurting their children isn’t something that the court will want to do. And so it would make sense, to have staggered sentences is a good way to keep stability in the home,” said Brass. “There are going to be people that are going to be willing to cooperate with the federal government. Accepting responsibility early probably a really good idea before things get worse for them. And also the chances of escaping conviction here are slim because the pool of witnesses for the government are only growing.”
Other Bay Area parents who will reportedly plead guilty over the coming weeks are Agustin Huneeus Jr., 53, of San Francisco, for paying $300,000 to participate in both exam cheating and the athletic recruitment scheme for his daughter; Marjorie Klapper, 50, of Menlo Park, for paying $15,000 for exam cheating for her son; and Peter Sartorio, 53, of Menlo Park, for paying $15,000 for exam cheating for his daughter.
According to the affidavit (.pdf), the couple also inquired about the scheme on behalf of their third child.
The Isacksons pleaded guilty to charges related to paying the alleged ringleader in the scheme, William “Rick” Singer and his associates $600,000, including $250,000 in Facebook stock, to have their daughters’ admitted to the schools.
The Isacksons said in an emailed statement that they are “profoundly sorry” and take full responsibility for their “bad judgment.” They say they have worked with investigators and will continue to do so.
“We have worked cooperatively with the prosecutors and will continue to do so as we take full responsibility for our bad judgment,” they said in a statement.
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.