SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/CNN) — A Bay Area vineyard owner pleaded guilty in a Boston federal courtroom Tuesday to paying $50,000 to cheat on his daughter’s SAT exam and agreeing to pay a total of $250,000 in bribes to get her into USC as a purported water polo recruit.
Agustin Huneeus Jr., whose family owns Napa-based Huneeus Vintners, agreed to a plea deal in which federal prosecutors are asking for a sentence of 15 months in prison and a $95,000 fine.READ MORE: Top San Jose Officials Blast Bail Policies After Murder Suspects Released While Awaiting Trial
Huneeus participated in both the exam cheating and college recruitment schemes, according to the federal complaint.
As part of the recruitment scheme, admissions scam mastermind Rick Singer sent USC athletics official Donna Heinel a fabricated athletic profile saying Huneeus’ daughter was a talented water polo player, and the profile even included an photo of a random water polo player, according to the complaint. His daughter was then conditionally accepted into USC in November.
Heinel has pleaded not guilty to a conspiracy to commit racketeering charge.
Later, after Singer began cooperating with prosecutors, he called Huneeus and told him he was being audited and that they should falsely tell authorities that the $50,000 sent to Singer’s fake charity was to help underserved children.
“Dude, dude, what do you think, I’m a moron?” Huneeus responded.READ MORE: Drought Emergency: Water Districts Across Bay Area, California Warned Not To Expect Shipments From State
“I’m going to say that I’ve been inspired how you’re helping underprivileged kids get into college,” he added. “Totally got it.”
Huneeus’ daughter was one of the children who was sent a target letter by federal prosecutors, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation.
Target letters are used to inform a person that a grand jury is reviewing evidence that could be used to charge him or her with a crime. In this situation, they are standard letters that don’t go into a lot of details but advise the recipient to get in touch with prosecutors, according to the source. She has not been charged in the case.
According to wiretapped conversations quoted in a criminal complaint filed in the case on March 11, Huneeus and Singer agreed in 2018 that Huneeus would pay the remaining $200,000 after his daughter received a final letter of acceptance from USC in late March of this year.
The scheme unraveled, however, when federal prosecutors in Boston announced the criminal charges on March 12.
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