Former coach and parent to plead guilty in college admissions cheating scandal
Two more defendants in the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal that exploded into the headlines last month have decided to plead guilty, US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office said Tuesday.
In a statement, Lelling’s office identified the defendants as Laura Janke, 36, of North Hollywood, Calif., a former assistant women’s soccer coach at USC, and Toby MacFarlane, 56, of Del Mar, Calif., a former senior executive at a title insurance company.
They’re two of the 50 people charged as part of the plot, in which wealthy parents cut fat checks to William “Rick” Singer, the admitted ringleader of the scheme, to get their children falsely certified as athletic recruits at elite colleges and universities, or to facilitate cheating on their kids’ SAT and ACT scores.
Janke, Lelling’s office said, “will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering and will cooperate with the government’s investigation. Janke was previously indicted along with 11 other defendants.”
MacFarlane, the statement said, “will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. MacFarlane was previously charged by criminal complaint.”
According to court filings, “MacFarlane paid $450,000 to facilitate the admission of his children to USC as purported athletic recruits,” prosecutors said. “Specifically, on Oct. 3, 2013, Singer emailed MacFarlane’s daughter’s high school transcript and college exam scores to Janke and another defendant. Soon after, Singer caused a purported charitable organization he established, the Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF), to wire $50,000 to a private soccer club controlled by Janke and the other defendant.”
Lelling’s office said that using “materials provided by MacFarlane and Singer, Janke then created a falsified soccer profile for MacFarlane’s daughter, falsely describing her as a ‘US Club Soccer All American’ in high school. MacFarlane’s daughter was presented to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions as a purported soccer recruit, and was accepted to USC in March 2014. On May 2, 2014, MacFarlane issued a $200,000 check to the Edge College & Career Network LLC (‘The Key’) – Singer’s for-profit college counseling and preparation business – with ‘Real Estate Consulting & Analysis’ written in the memo line. On May 12, 2014, Singer issued a $100,000 payment to the private soccer club which Janke partly controlled.”
Also in November 2016, Lelling’s office said, “Singer directed Janke to create a falsified basketball profile for MacFarlane’s son. Singer then emailed the profile to a USC administrator to present to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions as a purported basketball recruit. In February 2017, USC issued a conditional acceptance to MacFarlane’s son as a student-athlete. On Feb. 23, 2017, MacFarlane sent a $50,000 check to USC Athletics, and the following month USC mailed MacFarlane’s son a formal acceptance letter. On April 18, 2017, MacFarlane issued a $200,000 check to KWF with ‘Real Estate Consulting’ written in the memo line.”
Singer, who ultimately turned snitch and wired up on several parents, has already pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Plea hearings in US District Court in Boston haven’t yet been scheduled for MacFarlane and Janke. A number of other defendants caught in the net also have agreed to plead guilty, including Hollywood star Felicity Huffman.
Plea agreements filed in the cases against Janke and MacFarlane shed some light on what the future could hold for each of them.
Janke will plead guilty no later than May 30 and faces a maximum prison term of 20 years, her agreement says.
The feds are seeking “incarceration at the low end” of sentencing guidelines for Janke, fine and restitution payments within the guidelines, and an order that she forfeit $134,213.90, which is “equal to the amount of proceeds the defendant derived from the offense,” records show.
“Defendant admits that $134,213.90 is subject to forfeiture on the grounds that it is equal to the amount of proceeds the defendant derived from the offense,” the agreement says.
A cooperation agreement between the government and Janke says that if she provides “substantial assistance in the investigation or prosecution of another person who has committed a criminal offense, the U.S. Attorney agrees that, at or before sentencing, the U.S. Attorney will file a motion . . . to recommend that the Court impose a sentence below the advisory Guidelines sentencing range.”
The agreement says the “determination whether Defendant has provided substantial assistance rests solely in the discretion of the U.S. Attorney and is not subject to appeal or review.”
MacFarlane also will plead guilty no later than May 30, according to his plea agreement filed with the court. He also faces up to 20 years behind bars.
The feds are seeking a 15-month prison term for MacFarlane, as well as a $95,000 fine and restitution “in an amount to be determined by the Court at sentencing,” his agreement says.
Within six months of sentencing or release from custody, whichever is greater, MacFarlane will have to “file accurate and complete tax returns for those years for which returns were not filed or for which inaccurate returns were filed” and “make a good faith effort to pay all delinquent and additional taxes, interest, and penalties,” the agreement says.