Former USC coaches, parents implicated in Varsity Blues scandal sentenced

Laura Janke, the former USC assistant soccer coach who fabricated athletic profiles to facilitate the acceptance of children of wealthy parents in exchange for bribes as part of “Operation Varsity Blues,” was sentenced to time served with one year of supervised release and 50 hours of community service Tuesday. Ali Khosroshahin, a former USC soccer coach who hired Janke and also accepted bribes in exchange for falsified recruiting, was sentenced to six months of home confinement Wednesday.

A Los Angeles couple, Davina and Bruce Isackson, who paid $600,000 to admit their daughters to USC and UCLA as bogus athletic recruits, also avoided jail time and were both sentenced to time served, one year of probation and fines Tuesday.

Janke, who was dismissed from USC in 2014, pleaded guilty to a racketeering conspiracy as part of admissions consultant turned bribery scheme mastermind William “Rick” Singer’s college admissions scheme in May 2019. 

Following her March 2019 arrest, Janke agreed to cooperate with the federal investigation into the scandal in April of the same year, providing “substantial assistance in the government’s investigation and prosecution of others,” the government’s sentencing memorandum reads. Janke’s testimony in two trials resulted in the conviction of parents Gamal Abdelaziz and John Wilson and former women’s water polo coach Jovan Vavic. Court documents from Janke’s sentencing reveal that she displayed “genuine remorse” for her actions throughout the course of the proceedings. 

Khosroshahin, who worked as the USC women’s soccer head coach from 2007 to 2013, hired Janke in 2007 to serve as assistant coach to his team. The two were previously acquainted — Khosroshahin recruited and coached Janke as a soccer player at Cal State-Fullerton. According to court documents, Khosroshahin informed Janke of the scheme and solicited her help in admitting bribe-paying applicants as fake soccer recruits. 

Khosroshahin, who prosecutors said initially “expressed reticence” at Singer’s proposal for the scheme, worked with Janke to submit deceitful athletic profiles — some created by Singer, some by Khosroshahin and Janke themselves — to the University’s subcommittee on athletic admissions. The former coaches accepted one or two of Singer’s applicants per year while receiving Singer’s payments to the USC soccer program and later to their private soccer club. 

Janke must forfeit $129,213.90 in ill-gotten gains from bribery payments — the sum was transferred from her and Khosroshahim’s private soccer club to Janke personally after October 2012.

Khosroshahim pleaded guilty in 2019 to assisting Singer in conducting “side door” admission to USC and has cooperated with authorities investigating the scandal, ESPN reported. Though prosecutors in Khosroshahin’s case had not been seeking home confinement or prison time for him, United States District Judge Indira Talwani believed prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations to be insufficient. 

Davina, fined $1,000, and Bruce, fined $7,500, used Singer’s connections and scheme to facilitate the admission of one of their daughters as a bogus soccer recruit and the other as a crew recruit to USC and UCLA. In May 2019, the pair pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Bruce’s attorney wrote in a sentencing memorandum that Bruce cooperated with the federal investigation over the course of three years, sitting for government interviews, providing documents and testifying in two trials. 

“All told, Mr. Isackson’s cooperation was a significant factor in the successful prosecution of almost 40 other defendants,” the document reads.

Davina, too, was one of the first parents in the case to plead guilty and announced publicly her cooperation in the investigation within a month of her arrest in March 2019, court documents show. The three-year pre-trial supervision period Davina served was decided to be sufficient time served.

“She has spent more than three years as the subject of public ridicule and humiliation, including facing her own children’s anger at her,” Davina’s attorney said in her sentencing memorandum.

UCLA issued a letter June 13 regarding the matter of the Isacksons, writing that their wrongdoing deprived the university system of the ability to allocate highly desired spots on the school’s intercollegiate varsity sports teams to truly deserving student-athletes. 

“The conduct of Bruce and Davina Isackson struck at the integrity of UC’s merit-based admissions process and the interests of the University and the public it serves,” the letter read. 

Janke’s attorney declined the Daily Trojan’s request for comment. Attorneys for Davina and Bruce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.