The wave of parent sentencing continued Wednesday in the college admissions cheating scandal, when a former World Surf League official received a two-month prison term for paying bribes totaling $250,000 to get his son into USC as a fake volleyball recruit.
Jeffrey Bizzack, 59, of Solana Beach, Calif., learned his fate during a sentencing hearing in US District Court in Boston, where he’d agreed to plead guilty in June to a sole count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
In addition to the prison term, Bizzack was ordered to pay a $250,000 fine, spend three years on supervise release, and perform “300 hours per year of community service,” said US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office in a statement.
Bizzack’s lawyers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.
He’s one of dozens of defendants charged in the audacious scheme, in which well-heeled parents cut fat checks to admitted ringleader William “Rick” Singer to get their children falsely designated as sports recruits at fancy schools, or to pad their kids’ SAT and ACT scores.
Bizzack became the 12th parent to be sentenced in the case. Others have included Hollywood star Felicity Huffman, who served less than two weeks behind bars and forked over a $30,000 fine as punishment for paying a bribe to boost her daughter’s SAT score.
In a recent sentencing memorandum, Lelling’s office requested that Bizzack receive a sentence of nine months in the can, plus a $75,000 fine and 12 months of supervised release.
“Bizzack’s crime was serious, considered and extended,” Lelling’s office wrote. “It was intended to secure a place for his son in USC’s entering class through deception and fraud. It involved corrupting a college admissions process that thousands of students depend on annually. It contributed to the weakening of public confidence in the fairness of that system not just at USC, but more broadly. And it caused concrete harm: the theft of an admissions spot, and the lifelong opportunities associated with it, from a more deserving student.”
Bizzack, the feds wrote, “knew that his son didn’t play volleyball, much less at a level that would qualify him for collegiate competition. Indeed, this knowledge is precisely why Bizzack didn’t tell his son about the scheme. It is same reason he later expressed concern to Singer about whether his actions were ‘going to come back to’ him. And it is why he ultimately directed his attorneys to call the government after he learned about this investigation.”
Prosecutors also noted that Bizzack has “resigned from his position as an executive at the World Surf League, although he continues to provide unpaid consulting services and to retain an ownership interest in the company.”
In a separate filing, Bizzack’s attorneys had sought a sentence of one year of probation, 250 hours of community service, and a $75,000 fine.
Prior to the college scheme, the defense wrote, “Mr. Bizzack has lived an exemplary life. Mr. Bizzack is a devoted father and husband – he and his wife have been married for over 30 years. He has found success as an entrepreneur, but he has not been driven by a single-minded desire to make money. Instead, he has always combined his efforts to build productive businesses with a vision intended to improve the wider world – a vision and culture that he has embedded into his businesses, and that he has lived through his charitable works and efforts to help those in need.”
The defense said Bizzack did not involve his son in the scheme and later met with USC investigators for several hours “and provided them with all requested documents to be totally transparent with them and to assist in USC’s investigation.”
Bizzack’s attorneys also suggested that more parents could face legal jeopardy.
“According to the Indictment filed against some of the parents in this case, Rick Singer made $23 million dollars from this scheme [over a period of years], but the total value of payments in the various charging documents in this matter amounts to about half of that, suggesting that many of the parents who engaged in this scheme have not yet been charged,” the defense wrote. “The Government has also made statements that there are numerous uncharged parents still under investigation.”