USC parent sentenced for Operation Varsity Blues

A USC parent who attempted to pay $300,000 to secure his daughter’s admission to the University was sentenced to five months in prison and 500 hours of community service and ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 in federal court Friday. 

Former businessman and Napa Valley winemaker Agustin Huneeus Jr.’s hearing marked the second sentencing of a USC parent and the fifth parent sentencing overall in the Operation Varsity Blues admissions scandal, according to CNN. An FBI investigation released in March stated that more than 20 USC students were admitted to the University through bribes and fake athletic profiles. 

Huneeus’ sentence is the heaviest to date among those indicted by the FBI, exceeding the four-month prison sentence handed down to waterTALENT founder and CEO Devin Sloane last Tuesday, but is far lighter than the 15-month sentence advised by federal attorneys.

Huneeus’ daughter was conditionally accepted to the Class of 2023, but the admissions offer was rescinded upon his arrest with a portion of the bribe payment still pending. 

Of the $300,000 Huneeus pledged to spend on his daughter’s admission, $50,000 was paid to William “Rick” Singer, the Newport Beach-based businessman behind the admissions bribery scheme, to alter her SAT scores. Singer’s co-founded The Edge College & Career Network, a for-profit business accused of running the scam. Singer pleaded guilty to all charges in March.

Hunneus planned to pay the remaining $250,000 to falsely identify his daughter as a USC water polo recruit. However, only $50,000 of the athletics bribe was finalized before Huneeus was charged in the case.

Because the final payment was not made and Huneeus’ daughter was not officially granted admission, Huneeus’ attorneys argued for a light sentence of two months in prison and 350 hours of community service. However, federal prosecutors deemed a harsher sentence appropriate due to Huneeus’ involvement in both aspects of the admissions scandal — he was one of only a few parents to offer bribes for fraudulent athletic recruitment and SAT score adjustment.

Huneeus’ daughter allegedly knew about the bribes but has not been named in the case. 

According to an informational page on its website last updated Aug. 13, USC will continue to work with the U.S. Department of Justice in the investigation. 

“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,” USC wrote. “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.”