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Couple gets prison time for paying $250,000 to have daughter admitted to USC as a volleyball recruit

BOSTON — A California couple got prison time Tuesday for paying $250,000 to get their daughter into the University of Southern California as a volleyball recruit — the latest sentencing in the college admissions bribery scheme that’s roiled the worlds of higher education, sports and entertainment..

Diane Blake was sentenced to six weeks behind bars while Todd Blake was sentenced to four months, under plea deals made with prosecutors.

Diane Blake had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud.

Todd Blake had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Wright described Todd Blake as the more active participant in the scam but said his wife was “fully complicit.”

Diane Blake told a Boston federal court judge in a hearing held via videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic that she is “truly sorry” for her actions. Her husband said he is “ready to accept the consequences.”

The Blakes, of Ross, California, in Marin County, are among more than 50 people charged in the scheme led by Newport Beach-based college admissions consultant Rick Singer, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors.

The Blakes worked with Singer to get their daughter into USC as a volleyball recruit in 2018, authorities said. Todd Blake sent a $50,000 check for USC women’s athletics to then-senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel and wired $200,000 to Singer’s fake charity, authorities said. Their daughter was formally admitted a month later.

When questioned by a USC official about the money, Todd Blake lied and said it was “to commemorate a friend who was a former women’s basketball coach,” prosecutors said.

Heinel has pleaded not guilty to charges.

More than 40 people have admitted to charges in the case, including “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin, and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli.

Loughlin late last month began serving her two-month prison term for paying $500,000 to get her two daughters into USC as bogus rowing recruits. Giannulli has been ordered to report to prison on Thursday to begin his five-month sentence.

Huffman served a two-week prison stint last year for paying $15,000 to rig her daughter’s SAT score.

Last week, the former president of a private tennis club in Texas was sentenced Friday to three months in prison followed by three months in home confinement for his role in the  college admissions bribery scheme. Martin Fox apologized for his actions during an appearance before a Boston judge via video conference.

“I’m ashamed for what I’ve done. My parents raised me better than this,” Fox said.

The Houston man pleaded guilty last year to a racketeering conspiracy charge in a deal with prosecutors.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of six months behind bars. Fox’s lawyers urged the judge for leniency, saying he has a medical condition and and will be at risk behind bars because of the virus.

Fox acted as a middleman between Singer and coaches and a test administrator to facilitate cheating on children’s college entrance exams or help kids get into school as recruited athletics, prosecutors said.

Authorities said he arranged bribes to get a student into to the University of Texas as a tennis recruit, even though the student didn’t play competitively. Fox also brokered a deal to get a student into the University of San Diego as a basketball recruit, prosecutors say.

He personally took at least $245,000 through the scheme and facilitated thousands of dollars in bribe payments, prosecutors said.

Source: Orange County Register

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