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‘Profoundly sorry’ parents agree to plead guilty in college admissions case

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2015 file photo, students walk on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles. Fewer Cali
Students walk on the UCLA campus in this file photo.
(Damian Dovarganes / Associated Press)

A California couple charged in the college admissions scandal have agreed to plead guilty and tell prosecutors what they know about others involved in the scheme, according to sources familiar with the case and records reviewed by The Times.

Davina Isackson and Bruce Isackson, the president of a Bay Area real estate firm, are accused of paying a college admissions consultant $600,000 to get a daughter into UCLA and another into USC through bribes and other deceitful moves, court records show.

David K. Willingham, an attorney for Davina Isackson, confirmed the couple’s decision to admit guilt.

“No words can express how profoundly sorry we are for what we have done. Our duty as parents was to set a good example for our children, and instead we have harmed and embarrassed them by our misguided decisions,” they said in a joint statement released by Willingham. “We have worked cooperatively with the prosecutors and will continue to do so as we take full responsibility for our bad judgment.”

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Their decision to plead guilty was first reported by the New York Times.

Beyond pleading guilty, the pair also have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, sharing information about other people who may have committed crimes as part of the admissions scam.

The Los Angeles Times reviewed a copy of the plea agreement that spells out the terms of the cooperation deal between prosecutors and Bruce Isackson. If, after hearing what Isackson knows, prosecutors decide he has provided them “substantial assistance,” they will ask the judge in his case to sentence Isackson to a shorter prison term than what is called for by sentencing guidelines, the agreement shows.

The agreement does not specify what sentence prosecutors would request, but they could ask the judge to spare Isackson prison time completely.

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Under the terms of the plea deal, Bruce Isackson will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and two additional charges: money laundering conspiracy and a conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service. Davina Isackson will plead guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit fraud.

Both of the Isacksons have signed formal cooperation agreements with prosecutors.

The Isacksons join a handful of other parents who have announced their decision to concede their involvement in the bribery and cheating scheme. Thirty-three parents have been charged in the wide-ranging case, and others are expected to follow suit this week with plans to plead guilty.

In all, 50 people have been charged in the federal investigation, a group that includes parents, athletic coaches at several universities and William “Rick” Singer, a college admissions consultant who has admitted to running the scam that catered to wealthy clients looking to cheat on their children’s college entrance exams or to gain admission by faking athletic credentials.

The Isacksons began conspiring with Singer in 2015 to have their older daughter admitted to college as an athletic recruit, according to court records. Their first choice was USC, but plans to sneak the teen into the school were thwarted when her application was inadvertently sent into the normal admissions process, leaving a member of the athletic department who was allegedly working with Singer unable to complete the deal, according to an FBI affidavit.

Singer then turned to UCLA, sending a fake athletic profile he had concocted in May 2016 to Ali Khosroshahin, a former USC women’s soccer coach, who passed it on to Jorge Salcedo, the former head men’s soccer coach at UCLA, prosecutors say. Khosroshahin and Salcedo have been indicted on charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering.

The girl was admitted to UCLA. Unlike other students who sneaked into schools as faked athletes and then simply did not join the teams, the Isacksons’ daughter found herself in over her head on the UCLA women’s soccer roster.

For passing their daughter off as a recruited athlete, they transferred shares of Facebook stock valued at about $250,000 to a charity operated by Singer, the FBI affidavit says.

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Singer used his charity to pay Salcedo $100,000 and Khosroshahin $25,000 for securing Isackson’s admittance, prosecutors say.

The day her daughter was approved by a UCLA student-athlete admissions committee, Davina Isackson thanked Singer in an email. Her daughter and husband were copied on the note.

“I know it has been a rough ride,” she wrote, according to the affidavit, “but I thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul for your persistence, creativity and commitment towards helping [our daughter].”

The Isacksons then are accused of paying Singer an additional $350,000 to rig their younger daughter’s college entrance exam and to pass her off as an experienced rower to get her into USC as a member of the crew team.

As part of his agreement with prosecutors, Bruce Isackson must pay the IRS nearly $140,000 in restitution. The payment appears to be because Isackson wrote off his payments to Singer’s organization as a charitable donation.


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