Ex-USC assistant women’s soccer coach pleads guilty in college scandal
She created fake athletic profiles used in the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal, but Tuesday she became a real felon, pleading guilty in connection with the audacious scheme that has ensnared Hollywood stars and corporate titans.
Laura Janke, 36, a former assistant women’s soccer coach at USC, pleaded guilty in US District Court in Boston to a sole count of conspiracy to commit racketeering, which carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.
The government believes sentencing guidelines call for Janke to serve between 27 and 33 months, according to prosecutors. She faces sentencing on Oct. 17 and remains free on bond until then.
Assistant US Attorney Eric S. Rosen said in court Tuesday that Janke was involved in the scam from 2011 until about February 2019. She left her coaching job at USC in 2014.
Janke was among 50 people charged in the case, in which wealthy parents paid large sums to admitted ringleader William “Rick” Singer to have their children falsely certified as athletic recruits at selective schools, or to facilitate cheating on the children’s SAT and ACT exams.
Rosen said Janke created fake athletic profiles for the sham recruits, and Singer funneled cash into the account of a private soccer club that Janke and a codefendant controlled.
The phony profiles listed accolades that applicants had purportedly racked up for their athletic feats, helping to pave the way for their acceptance into schools.
Court records detail Janke’s efforts on behalf of the younger daughter of actress Lori Loughlin, best known for her scene-stealing role as Aunt Becky on the sitcom “Full House.”
According to legal filings, Singer in July 2017 directed Janke via e-mail to create a crew profile for Loughlin’s daughter, who did not row competitively, and Janke responded, “Ok sounds good. Please send me the pertinent information and I will get started.”
The younger daughter was ultimately accepted to USC as a fraudulent crew recruit. Prosecutors say the older daughter was also a fake crew recruit admitted to the school.
Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are both charged in connection with the case and have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Janke repeatedly answered, “Yes, your honor,” in a soft voice when Judge Indira Talwani asked her routine questions to determine whether her guilty plea was knowing and voluntary.
It wasn’t clear how many fake profiles she created as part of the scheme.
Janke has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors, and her plea deal says the government will seek “incarceration at the low end” of sentencing guidelines, 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.
A cooperation agreement between the government and Janke says 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 leaves it to prosecutors to decide whether Janke’s assistance was substantial.
Her guilty plea came one day after actress Felicity Huffman tearfully pleaded to wrongdoing in the same courthouse.
Huffman, whose credits include roles in the film “Transamerica” and the critically acclaimed TV shows “Sports Night” and “Desperate Housewives,” pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud for paying $15,000 to have her daughter take the SAT at a test center in West Hollywood, Calif., where a Singer accomplice corrected her answers after she was done, boosting her score to 1420.
Huffman, 56, faces sentencing on Sept. 13. Prosecutors are recommending that she be locked up for four months and pay a $20,000 fine, records show.