USC parent sentenced to prison for admission scandal

A father and businessman who paid $250,000 for his son to be admitted to USC as a fake water polo recruit was sentenced to four months in prison Tuesday in Boston Federal Court, against protest from his attorneys. 

Devin Sloane, the founder and CEO of waterTALENT, started working with William “Rick” Singer, who ran the backdoor admissions scheme, in 2017 to guarantee his son’s admission to USC as a water polo recruit, according to an FBI investigation released in March. The investigation found over 20 students who were admitted to USC using bribes and fake athletic profiles, and Sloane is the first USC-connected parent to be sentenced. 

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani also ordered Sloane to complete 500 hours of community service and fined him $95,000. 

According to the Los Angeles Times, Sloane’s attorneys pushed for three years of supervised release, a $75,000 fine and 2,000 hours of community service instead of prison, advocating on grounds of good character. 

Sloane’s attorneys did not respond with comment on the sentencing in time for publication.

Sloane wrote a letter to the judge Sept. 14 asking for leniency, calling his actions “wrong and shameful” and acknowledging he “failed miserably by doing too much, going too far and crossing the line.”

“The realization of the horrible mistake I had made and the crime I committed became clear to me after 15 armed agents raided our home on March 12, arrested me and took me away from my wife and our young children in handcuffs,” Sloane wrote. 

Sloane is one of 15 parents who plead guilty in the college admissions scandal and the second to be sentenced. He is the second parent to receive a sentence, following actress Felicity Huffman last week who will face 14 days in prison and was fined $30,000 for paying $15,000 to change her daughter’s SAT scores. 

Sloane plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and one of honest services mail fraud. 

Records show Sloane purchased water polo gear on Amazon that his son wore in a posed photo in the family’s swimming pool. Sloane later emailed a graphic designer to modify the image to make his son look like a water polo player for a false recruiting profile.

“We researched a few water polo athlete images and the majority are cropped against a background so they can use them in promotional materials,” the graphic designer wrote in an email to Sloane, according to court documents. “We were able to adjust the color and complete a clean extraction to mimic this look.”

In November 2017, former assistant athletics director Donna Heinel presented Sloane’s son to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions and sent him a conditional acceptance letter, calling him someone who could “make a significant contribution to the intercollegiate athletic program.” 

Sloane paid Heinel $50,000 and sent an additional $200,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation, the company owned by Singer that allegedly worked to conceal bribes as donations, after his son received an official acceptance late last March.

USC may have caught Sloane after a high school counselor questioned his son’s college water polo recruitment when he wasn’t part of the school team. 

“They know about USC,” Singer wrote in an email to Sloane. “One of the counselors questioned [your son] getting in as water polo player this week. My folks at [USC] called me, so we could restate [your son] playing in Italy as [his high school] does not have a team.”

In response to a request for comment, USC directed the Daily Trojan to an informational page on its website last updated Aug. 11. 

“The University is conducting a full review of the matter and continues to cooperate with the U.S. Justice Department’s investigation,” the page read. “We are in the process of identifying donations that may have been received in connection with the alleged scheme and determining how to redirect those funds … We will take all necessary steps to safeguard the integrity of our admissions process and to ensure we conduct ourselves in a manner consistent with our values.”