California couple agrees to guilty pleas in college scam
A California couple agreed Friday to plead guilty to paying $250,000 to get their daughter into USC as a fake volleyball recruit.
Diane Blake and Todd Blake will plead guilty in front of a judge at a future date, the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston said in a statement Friday. The couple from Ross, Calif., had initially pleaded not guilty, news outlets previously reported.
The couple was accused of tapping William “Rick” Singer, who authorities said was the mastermind behind the sweeping nationwide scheme, to facilitate their daughter’s admission into USC. According to the indictment against the couple posted on the U.S. attorney’s website, Todd Blake sent a check for $50,000 to USC Women’s Athletics and wired $200,000 to a sham charity set up by Singer.
USC spokesperson Lauren Bartlett said in an email that the university would not comment on the case.
Diane Blake, 55, will plead guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud, her plea agreement states. Todd Blake, 54, will plead guilty to the same charge, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, his plea agreement states. Per their plea agreements, Diane Blake has agreed to serve six weeks in prison, while Todd Blake has agreed to serve four months. Each also agreed to a $125,000 fine and two years’ supervised release with 100 hours of community service.
Charges of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering against both Blakes will be dismissed under the plea agreements.
A judge wrote Friday that Rick Singer’s notes raise “serious and disturbing” questions about the investigation into his college admissions scam.
An email to the Blakes’ lawyers wasn’t immediately returned.
Singer pleaded guilty and was cooperating with the government’s investigation into what authorities dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” — a series of indictments that have rocked the worlds of higher education, sports and entertainment.
Dozens of wealthy parents, athletic coaches and others were charged last year in the scheme. Parents paid hefty bribes to get their children into top universities with bogus test scores or fake athletic credentials, authorities say. The Blakes are the 27th and 28th parents to plead guilty in connection with the scam, according to the statement from the U.S. attorney’s office.
Others who have pleaded guilty include “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who agreed in May to plead guilty to paying half a million dollars to get their two daughters into USC. A judge had yet to decide whether he would accept deals they made with prosecutors.
“Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman also pleaded guilty to paying $15,000 to have someone rig her daughter’s entrance exam. Huffman served most of her two-week prison sentence.
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