Jorge Salcedo, the former UCLA soccer coach charged with endorsing the fraudulent admission of two students for $200,000 in bribes, will plead guilty to conspiring to commit racketeering, according to a plea agreement unsealed Tuesday.
In his plea agreement, which Salcedo signed Sunday, prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston said they would recommend a sentence at the low end of a guideline range that calls for 24 to 30 months in federal prison. Salcedo agreed to forfeit $200,000, the sum he pocketed from two families whose children were admitted to UCLA as phony soccer players, prosecutors alleged. Salcedo’s attorney, Thomas Frongillo, declined to comment.
In 2016, Salcedo helped William “Rick” Singer, the Newport Beach consultant at the center of the admissions scandal, ensure the daughter of a wealthy Bay Area couple was admitted to UCLA, forwarding the girl’s fabricated soccer credentials to his colleagues on the women’s soccer team, according to a series of indictments handed up by grand juries in Boston last year.
The couple, Bruce and Davina Isackson, paid Singer $250,000 for the deal, $100,000 of which went to Salcedo, the indictments charged. The Isacksons have pleaded guilty to fraud, money laundering and tax charges and are cooperating with the government.
In 2018, Salcedo ensured the son of another of Singer’s clients — Xiaoning Sui, a Chinese national living in British Columbia — was admitted to UCLA as a recruit for the men’s soccer team, the indictments charged. Sui’s son was approved for admission and awarded a 25% athletic scholarship, despite the fact the boy did not play soccer. Sui has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit fraud and international money laundering.
Salcedo, a graduate of UCLA who led the men’s soccer program for 15 seasons, was arrested in March 2019 and charged with conspiring to commit racketeering. He resigned from his post at UCLA a week later. He was subsequently charged with conspiring to commit fraud and bribery, although prosecutors agreed in his plea agreement to dismiss those counts.
Prior to agreeing to plead guilty, Salcedo had tried to extract from his former employer some documents that his attorneys claimed would demonstrate UCLA was not a victim of a money-for-admissions scheme, but in fact was its “architect and orchestrator.” The school’s athletic department, they alleged in asking a judge to issue a subpoena, routinely endorsed the unqualified children of wealthy families in exchange for donations.
Salcedo’s attorneys said they intended to show at trial that various administrators had pressed UCLA coaches to endorse their children or otherwise intervened in the admissions process, including one incident in 2008, when a supervisor “pressured” Salcedo to recruit his son to the soccer team, they claimed.
UCLA’s attorneys asked a judge to reject the requested subpoena. Salcedo, they argued, was trying to conflate university fundraising with a bribery scheme that enriched no one but himself, selling off university benefits — two admissions slots and a partial athletic scholarship — that “were not Salcedo’s to give away for his own.” His subpoena, they said, “would serve no purpose other than to distract from the charges at hand.”
A judge did not rule on the subpoena before Salcedo signed his plea agreement. No change of plea hearing has been scheduled; both Salcedo and the government asked that it take place in person, rather than through a video conference, as has been necessitated during the coronavirus pandemic.
If U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani accepts his plea, Salcedo will become the sixth person to admit wrongdoing of the dozen college coaches, test administrators and their alleged accomplices charged with conspiring to commit racketeering.