Former Napa Valley vineyard owner Agustin Huneeus was sentenced to five months in prison Friday for his participation in the elite college admissions bribery scheme.
U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani delivered her harshest sentence yet for a parent involved in the scandal, also handing down a $100,000 fine and 500 hours of community service.
Huneeus was one of dozens of wealthy parents charged earlier this year in a nationwide college admissions scam for allegedly paying bribes to get their kids into elite universities including Yale, Stanford, UCLA and more.
As part of the bribery scheme, which was investigated under the moniker Operation Varsity Blues, wealthy parents allegedly paid to falsely boost their children’s exam scores or to have their children apply as student-athletes even if they had no skills in the relevant sport.
Huneeus was the only parent of the nearly dozen who have pleaded guilty so far who had paid to both fraudulently boost his kid’s exam score and get her into a school as a fake athlete, per a memo from prosecutors to Talwani.
Huneeus pleaded guilty in May and admitted to paying $50,000 to cheat on his daughter’s SAT exam, per court records. He paid another $50,000 in bribes to get her into the University of Southern California as a water polo player. He was set to pay another $200,000 as part of the scheme, but was arrested before the deal was finished. (His daughter was ultimately not admitted.)
Actor Felicity Huffman, who last month became the first parent to be sentenced in the scam, got 14 days in prison, a $30,000 fine and 250 hours of community service. Three other parents sentenced so far were given one to four months in prison for trying to bribe their kids’ way into schools. “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have also been accused of paying bribes to get their daughter into college, and have pleaded not guilty.
“The outrage in this case is a system that is already so distorted by money and privilege in the first place,” the judge said last month in handing down Huffman’s sentence. “In a system in that context, that you took the step of having one more advantage to put your child ahead.”
Earlier Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation meant to make the college admissions process more fair in the state. One bill requires colleges to disclose whether they give preferential treatment in admissions to applicants related to donors or alumni. Another bans those found guilty in the admissions scandal from getting tax deductions for donations they made as part of the scheme.
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