Here Are All The Southern California Parents And School Officials Involved In The College Cheating Scandal
Following a national investigation, the Federal Bureau of Investigations charged 50 people in March 2019 in an alleged college exam and admissions fraud scheme. Charges ranged from cheating on college entrance exams to paying bribe money to university officials, and involved eight highly selective colleges.
Of those 50 individuals, 13 were parents from Southern California. Here's what we know about them so far:
Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive, was found guilty on Oct. 8, 2021 in a federal court in Boston. Abdelaziz was accused of paying $300,000 in 2018 to have his daughter admitted to USC as a basketball recruit even though she did not make the varsity team in high school, according to the New York Times.
Jane Buckingham of Los Angeles is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud after allegedly agreeing to pay $50,000 for a stand-in to take the ACT on behalf of her son at the Houston Test Center in 2018. Buckingham is the founder and CEO of the L.A.-based boutique marketing firm Trendera, whose clients include Netflix, Target, Coca-Cola and Facebook, to name a few. She is the bestselling author of The Modern Girl's Guide to Life, and a contributing editor at Seventeen and Cosmopolitan magazines, according to her LinkedIn.
As of April 8, Buckingham has agreed to plead guilty pursuant to plea agreements.
I-Hsin "Joey" Chen, based in Newport Beach, was charged on April 9 with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering. Chen allegedly paid $75,000 in exchange for a stand-in to purport to proctor his son's ACT and then correct his answers in April 2018. Chen operates a Torrance-based provider of warehousing and related services for the shipping industry.
Robert Flaxman of Beverly Hills is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud after allegedly paying to get his son into the University of San Diego, and flying his daughter to Houston to cheat on a college entrance exam. Flaxman is the CEO and president of Orange County-based Crown Realty & Development, which he co-founded in 1994. Crown was recently involved in a $400 million redevelopment project in Burbank at the site of the closed IKEA.
As of April 8, Flaxman has agreed to plead guilty pursuant to plea agreements.
Fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli and actress Lori Loughlin of Los Angeles were charged on April 9 with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering. The couple is accused of paying bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team--despite the fact that they did not participate in crew--thereby facilitating their admission to USC. Giannulli is the founder of the popular clothing line Mossimo, and Loughlin is best known for her role as Rebecca on the 1980s-1990s sitcom Full House.
Doug Hodge of Laguna Beach was charged on April 9 with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering. Hodge allegedly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars getting his children into USC based on made-up athletic achievements. He reportedly fabricated a sports resume for his son, then sent a total of $325,000 to people and firms affiliated with the bribery scheme. Hodge was, until Tuesday, listed as a partner at the San Francisco-based venture capital firm Sway Ventures, however his profile has since been taken down. He worked for 28 years at Pacific Investment Management Company, serving as CEO from 2014 to 2016. Since facing charges, Hodge has resigned from his position on the board of Newport Coast's Sage Hill School.
Felicity Huffman, a Los Angeles-based actress, is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud after allegedly paying $15,000 for a proctor hired by a firm affiliated with the cheating scheme to monitor her daughter taking the SAT, then correct her answers. Huffman allegedly planned to go through with the scheme a second time for her second child, then abandoned said plan. According to the complaint, Huffman's spouse, actor William H. Macy, was present for conversations about the scheme, although he is not currently facing charges. Huffman is best known for her role in the television series Desperate Housewives.
As of April 8, Huffman has agreed to plead guilty pursuant to plea agreements. In a statement, she said that she is "in full acceptance of my guilt," and experiencing "deep regret and shame over what I have done." Huffman entered her guilty plea on May 13.
Toby MacFarlane of Del Mar is accused of using bribery to gain admission to USC for his daughter as a soccer recruit and for his son as a basketball recruit. MacFarlane's daughter's application to the school falsely stated that she was a "US Club Soccer All American" in the 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. He allegedly paid a combined total of $400,000 for both children. During that time, MacFarlane worked as a senior executive at a title insurance company.
Stephen Semprevivo of Los Angeles is charged with bribing Georgetown tennis coach Gordie Ernst to get his son admitted as an athletic recruit, despite his son never having played tennis competitively. After their son's admission, the Semprevivo Family Trust allegedly issued a $400,000 check to a nonprofit involved in the scheme. Semprevivo is an executive at an Agoura Hills sales company Cydcor. According to his online bio, he previously worked as the general manager at online entertainment company Machinima MCN.
As of April 8, Semprivivo has agreed to plead guilty pursuant to plea agreements.
Elisabeth Kimmel, who is a resident of both La Jolla and Las Vegas, is accused of using bribery to get her daughter in to Georgetown as a tennis recruit and her son into USC as a track recruit. Kimmel owned San Diego-based AM talk radio station KFMB until 2018, when it was purchased by another company.
Devin Sloane of Los Angeles is charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud after allegedly bribing an athletics director to get his son into USC as a water polo recruit. He reportedly purchased water polo gear on Amazon and used it to stage a photo of his son playing the sport, then wired $200,000 to a non-profit involved in the scheme shortly after his son was accepted to USC in March 2018. Sloane is the founder and CEO of a Los Angeles-based water infrastructure company called Aquatecture.
As of April 8, Sloane has agreed to plead guilty pursuant to plea agreements.
More: Essay: How I Got My Kid Into College -- Without Cheating
Michelle Janavs of Newport Coast was charged on April 9 with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering. Janavs reportedly paid for her daughter's college entrance exams to be corrected after being completed, and conspired to use bribery to help get her daughter accepted to USC as a beach volleyball recruit. Janavs is a former executive at a large food manufacturer, formerly owned by members of her family. Since facing charges, Janavs has resigned from her position on the board of Newport Coast's Sage Hill School.
Homayoun Zadeh of Calabasas was charged on April 9 with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering. Zadeh is accused of conspiring to bribe officials at USC to designate his daughter as a lacrosse recruit, despite the fact that she didn't play lacrosse competitively. According to the criminal complaint, Zadeh paid $100,000 in increments to one of the firms involved in the bribery scheme. At one point, Zadeh allegedly told his contact at the firm that his daughter, who did not know about the bribery plans, was concerned that "she did not get in [to USC] on her own merits. I have not shared anything about our arrangement but she somehow senses it. She's concerned that others may view her differently." Zadeh is an associate professor of dentistry.
The Wall Street Journal reported in March that another L.A. parent, Morrie Tobin, is the person responsible for tipping the feds off to the cheating scandal in the first place. According to the newspaper, Tobin was under investigation for securities fraud "when he offered a tip to federal authorities in an effort to obtain leniency, according to people familiar with the matter."
That tip involved pointing them to the head women's coach at Yale, Ruby Meredith, who was allegedly trying to extract a bribe from Tobin in exchange for getting Tobin's daughter into Yale. Tobin eventually agreed to wear a wire during a meeting with Meredith.
John Wilson, a private equity financier, was found guilty in a Boston federal court on Oct. 8, 2021. He was accused
THE SOCAL COACHES AND ADMINSTRATORS
In addition to parents, there were a number of other Southern Californians named in the indictments. The following people face charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering:
Igor Dvorskiy of Sherman Oaks, who according to the indictment, was the director of a private school in L.A. and also had been compensated for working as a standardized test administrator with the College Board and ACT. The indictment alleges Dvorskiy was bribed to allow students to take the standardized tests at his private school. Federal authorities allege parents paid another man, William Rick Singer, between $10,000 and $75,000 per test.
Donna Heinel of Long Beach was, until Tuesday, a senior associate athletic director at USC. USC officials announced she had been fired after the indictments were unsealed.
Laura Janke of North Hollywood is a former assistant coach for the women's soccer team at USC. According to the indictment, Janke worked for Ali Khosroshahin. On April 23, Janke plead guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering. She also agreed to cooperate with the government's investigation.
Ali Khosroshahin of Fountain Valley is the former head coach of women's soccer at USC. He left that job in Nov. 2013, according to the indictment.
Jorge Salcedo of Los Angeles is the head coach of UCLA men's soccer. University officials announced Tuesday he had been put on leave. According to university records, Salcedo was paid a gross salary of $227,000 in 2017, the most recent year available in the UC system's public salary database.
Jovan Vavic of Rancho Palos Verdes was, until Tuesday, the head coach for both the USC men's and women's water polo teams. Vavic was fired Tuesday. The USC website describes him as "one of the most decorated water polo coaches in the country."
David Wagner contributed reporting to this story.
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