BOSTON — A former University of Southern California athletic department official who took bribes from the ringleader of a nationwide college admissions scandal to help get often unqualified students into the school as athletic recruits was sentenced Friday to six months in prison.
Donna Heinel was also sentenced in the US District Court in Boston to two years probation and ordered to forfeit $160,000.
His sentencing came just two days after ringleader Rick Singer was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison, by far the longest sentence in the so-called Operation Varsity Blues scandal that has led to convictions or guilty pleas of more than 50 people, including Hollywood Actors and wealthy businessmen.
The scheme involved bribery, embellished athletic achievements and cheating on entrance exams to get the often unqualified children from wealthy families into some of the most prestigious universities in the country.
Heinel, a former senior associate athletic director for Southern California, pleaded guilty in November 2021 to one count of honest services wire fraud.
“Heinel abused his position as liaison between USC athletic trainers and the athletic admissions subcommittee by misleading the committee into approving the admission of approximately two dozen Singer applicants as alleged athletic recruits when, in fact, the trainers did not. they had been recruited and some had. not even play the sport for which they were allegedly recruited,” the prosecution wrote in a sentencing memorandum.
When the university began to take notice and shocking high school counselors raised red flags, she lied to cover her tracks and went ahead with the plan, prosecutors said.
“She remains reluctant to accept responsibility for her actions,” prosecutors wrote.
Defense lawyers asked that he be spared his prison sentence.
“Her conduct, for which she takes full responsibility, is not representative of who she was or is today,” they wrote to the court. “An outwardly strong and powerful woman with a fragile and insecure inner self, Dr. Heinel’s fall from grace is a product of her own decision-making. But it is also the product of the pressures placed on her by a dysfunctional university school system at USC and the powerful men who inhabited her orbit.»