Prosecution releases new records in admissions case

The records show former administrator Donna Heinel, who faces charges in the case, was tasked with investigating the suspicious recruitment activities she coordinated. (Daily Trojan file photo)

Prosecutors in the college admissions case released 480 pages of records Wednesday following the allegations of failure to disclose evidence brought by parents named in the case.

The records, which include emails, transcripts of phone calls and financial and academic files, suggest that former senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel was assigned to investigate suspected fraudulent activities regarding athletics admissions. Heinel allegedly accepted over $1.3 million in bribes to present underqualified applicants’ falsified athletic recruitment profiles to admissions committees. She has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, aiding and abetting wire fraud and honest services wire fraud and aiding and abetting mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Among the released evidence was a September 2016 email exchange between a USC development official and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, who paid $500,000 to secure his two daughters’ admission to the University as false crew recruits. In the emails, which were dated about five months after Giannulli began collaborating with admissions scheme organizer William “Rick” Singer, the administrator offered to help Giannulli with his older daughter’s application, recommending class visits, one-on-one interviews and a personalized campus tour. Giannulli turned down the proposition, later forwarding the emails to his wife and noting it was “the nicest I’ve been at blowing off somebody.”

Giannulli and his wife, “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin, filed a motion last month in the Operation Varsity Blues case accusing the U.S. government of withholding evidence that could absolve the defense of responsibility for some of the charges, alleging that Singer led them to believe the payments they made for their daughters’ admissions would fund legitimate causes. In a motion filed Wednesday, a U.S. attorney refuted the claim, saying the couple had “specifically rejected this ‘legitimate’ approach” when they declined the development officer’s offer in favor of Singer’s scheme.

The government also denied it had concealed evidence relevant to the case in the motion. To date, the prosecution has produced 1.5 million pages of emails, 2,000 pages of legal documents and 4,000 recorded calls and text messages, according to court documents. 

The prosecution filed a status report last Friday stating that Loughlin, Giannulli and 29 other parents in the case had failed to provide material that would demonstrate the extent of their culpability in the scheme. Loughlin and Giannulli face charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The couple, along with 21 other defendants in the admissions case, have pleaded not guilty and await trial in federal court.