A former USC assistant women’s soccer coach pleaded guilty Tuesday in Boston to a federal racketeering conspiracy charge in connection with her involvement in a nationwide college admissions cheating scam.
Laura Janke, 36, of North Hollywood, is cooperating with the government’s investigation and faces sentencing on Oct. 17, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.
Janke conspired with the fraud scheme’s admitted ringleader, William Rick Singer, to craft phony athletic profiles and other documents to bolster students’ college applications by making them appear to be successful high school athletes, when in fact they were not. In exchange, Singer made direct payments to a private soccer club controlled by Janke and another defendant, federal officials said.
The charge of racketeering conspiracy carries a possible sentence of up to 20 years in prison, but according to Janke’s plea agreement, the government will recommend a sentence at the low end of the guidelines range — between two and three years — plus a year of supervised release, fines, restitution and forfeiture, according to federal prosecutors.
Singer is a Newport Beach college admissions consultant who pleaded guilty in March to charges that he facilitated the cheating and helped bribe coaches.
On Monday, actress Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty in Boston federal court to paying someone to correct answers on her daughter’s SAT exam as part of the scheme. The onetime “Desperate Housewives” star entered her plea to a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud for paying a proctor $15,000 to correct her daughter Sophia Grace Macy’s exam.
Los Angeles businessman Devin Sloane also pleaded guilty Monday to the same charge for paying $250,000 to get his son into USC as a fake water polo recruit. Sloane, who founded a drinking and wastewater systems company, bought water polo gear online and worked with a graphic designer to create a fake photo of his son playing the sport, according to prosecutors.
Huffman’s plea came two months after she was arrested in what’s been called “Operation Varsity Blues,” in which wealthy parents were accused of paying bribes to help their children get admitted into elite universities across the nation.
Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, was not charged in the scheme.
The 56-year-old Huffman is among 14 parents who have agreed to plead guilty in what authorities have called it the biggest college admissions cheating scandal ever prosecuted in the nation.
Prosecutors have said they will seek between four and 10 months in prison. Because Huffman agreed to plead guilty, prosecutors have promised to recommend a sentence at the low end of that range, but the judge also could decide on even less.
According to the terms of her plea deal, Huffman also will receive a year of probation, has agreed to forfeit the $15,000 and also must pay a $20,000 fine.
Some parents have decided to fight the charges. Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty to paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into USC as crew recruits even though neither of them is a rower.
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