Californian Vintner Sentenced to Five Months in Prison in College Admissions Case

Boston–A Californian vintner was sentenced today in federal court in Boston for paying $50,000 to have his daughter’s SAT scores artificially inflated, and agreeing to another $250,000 to have her fraudulently recruited to the University of Southern California (USC) as a water polo player.

Agustin Francisco Huneeus, 53, of San Francisco, Calif., was sentenced to five months in prison, two years of supervised release, ordered to complete 500 hours of community service and to pay a fine of $100,000. In May 2019, Huneeus pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Beginning in 2017, Huneeus conspired with William “Rick” Singer and others to have his daughter’s college entrance exam corrected, thereby fraudulently inflating the score. Over the course of several months, Huneeus took steps to facilitate the scheme, including securing extended time for his daughter to take the SAT, lying to her high school guidance counselors, and arranging for her to take the exam at a test center in West Hollywood that Singer “controlled” through the center’s corrupt administrator. In March 2018, Huneeus’s daughter took the SAT with the help of co-conspirator Mark Riddell, thereby receiving an artificially higher score. The following month, Huneeus made a purported contribution of $50,000 to Singer’s shame charity, the Key Worldwide Foundation, to pay for the scheme.

Huneeus was not happy with the results of the fraudulent exam scheme, and considered pursuing it on two more occasions. Ultimately, Huneeus decided to use the college recruitment scheme to guarantee his daughter’s admission to USC. During a call intercepted by a court-authorized wiretap, Singer explained the recruitment scheme in detail and the cost to Huneeus. In September 2018, Singer sent Donna Heinel, the senior athletic director at USC, an email with Huneeus’s daughter’s high school transcript, fraudulent SAT score, a fabricated athletic profile, and a photograph that was intended to appear to be Huneeus’s daughter playing water polo. In November 2018, Heinel emailed Singer a conditional acceptance letter for Huneeus’s daughter stating that she was admitted to USC as a water polo player. Later that month, Huneeus sent a $50,000 check to Heinel purportedly for the “USC Women’s Athletics Board.” Ultimately, Huneeus was arrested before making the final agreed-up payment of $200,000 to Singer.

Co-defendants Felicity Huffman, Devin Sloane, Stephen Semprevivo, and Gordon Caplan were previously sentenced to two weeks, four months, four months, and one month in prison, respectively.

Case information, including the status of each defendant, charging documents and plea agreements are available here: https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/investigations-college-admissions-and-testing-bribery-scheme.      

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