It’s been six months since we first wrote about the college admissions scandal and sentencing possibilities. But this story continues to make headlines as sentences are handed down and new charges continue to be added. Del Mar criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss has the newest updates in the story, including the sentences handed down to many of those involved.
College Bribery Scandal by The Numbers
Federal prosecutors have already brought up charges against 52 people and may still charge others involved in the scam later on. As we previously mentioned, the majority of these were wealthy parents who were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. 33 of these parents have been accused of paying a total of over $25 million to ensure their children could get into top universities in America. The mastermind of the scheme claims that he helped more than 750 families unethically secure college admissions for their children.
From the beginning, federal prosecutors made it very clear that those who did not plead guilty could be subjected to additional charges. In fact, only a month after the original charges were filed 16 of the parents had money laundering charges tacked on top of the two fraud charges they were already facing. Like the fraud charges, money laundering has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, meaning those 16 parents were then facing up to 60 years in prison.
In October, prosecutors increased the stakes again by threatening to add bribery charges for the remaining parents who still had not plead guilty. This has resulted in four of the indicted parents agreeing to change their plea to guilty, and on October 22, the prosecution moved forward with these charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 5 years, leaving these 11 parents to face a total of 65 years in prison.
It’s worth noting that of the two biggest names in the scandal, Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” plead guilty at the beginning of the case, whereas Lori Loughlin of “Full House” is continuing to fight the charges. Even aside from their different plea strategies, analysts and criminal lawyers in La Jolla have speculated that Huffman was likely to receive a lighter sentence as she started the process by appearing modest and regretful, whereas Lori Loughlin wore expensive designer clothes to court and maintained a defiant attitude regarding the charges which is likely to be seen as unapologetic. It’s important to recognize that your Solana Beach defense attorney can help you not only decide on the right course of action when it comes to fighting charges, but also how to present yourself in the best light to the prosecution, judge and jury.
College Admissions Scandal Sentencing
As of now, only 13 parents and 1 coach have been sentenced, all of whom plead guilty to one charge. Here’s how they have fared:
- Napa Valley vineyard owner Agustin Huneeus Jr., Sales executive Stephen Semprevivo and CEO Devin Sloane received 4 or 5 months imprisonment, 500 hours of community service and around $100,000 in fines.
- CEO Robert Flaxman was sentenced to one month imprisonment, 250 hours of community service and $50,000 in fines.
- International Dispensing Corp. founder Gregory Abbott, his wife, Marcia Abbott, lawyer Gordon Caplan were each sentenced to one month imprisonment, 250 hours of community service and around $50,000 in fines.
- Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment, 1 year probation, 250 hours of community service and $30,000 in fines.
- Jewelry business owner Marjorie Klapper was sentenced to 3 weeks imprisonment, 250 hours of community service and $9,500 in fines.
- Entrepreneur Peter Jan Sartorio was sentenced to 1 year probation, 250 hours of community service and $9,500 in fines.
- Real estate developer Robert Flaxman was sentenced to 1 month imprisonment, 1 year probation, 250 hours of community service and $50,000 in fines.
- Writer and marketing executive Jane Buckingham was sentenced to 3 weeks imprisonment, 1 year probation and $40,000 in fines.
- Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer was the first person to be sentenced in the scandal and received 1 day imprisonment, 2 years probation including 6 months of house arrest and a $10,000 fines.
For now, it seems new sentences and new charges are being added regularly, so it will be interesting to see how those who refused to make a plea will fare. With the prosecutors pushing hard for plea deals, Carmel Valley defense attorneys believe that sentencing will continue to get heavier and heavier the longer the defendants hold out, but it’s still possible some people will be found innocent of the charges.
Should any of these cases go to trial, the defendants are in a difficult position when it comes to explaining why they submitted phony test scores and fake sports profiles for their children. They essentially are admitting they knew their children weren’t being admitted to prestigious schools through legitimate means. While donating large sums to a university isn’t illegal, the government will say paying a middle man and providing fraudulent documents is evidence they knew the scheme was illegal.
If you have been accused of bribery, fraud, racketeering, conspiracy or money laundering like those involved in the scandal, it is important to contact a defense lawyer in Mira Mesa as soon as possible. Please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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