By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – A former University of Southern California assistant women’s soccer coach has agreed to plead guilty to engaging in a racketeering scheme in which she accepted bribes to help wealthy parents get their children into the school as part of the largest college admissions scandal in U.S. history.
She becomes the 20th person to agree to plead guilty to participating in the more than $25 million fraud, where parents including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were accused of using bribes to win their children spots at universities that also included Yale and Georgetown.
Laura Janke, who worked at USC until 2014, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiring to commit racketeering, according to a plea agreement filed in federal court in Boston on Tuesday.
Prosecutors have charged 50 people, including 33 parents, with playing a role in the scheme. “Full House” star Loughlin has pleaded not guilty, while “Desperate Housewives” actress Huffman is due to plead guilty on May 21.
The fraud involved phony test-takers and doctored photos presenting non-athletic children as star athletes, prosecutors said.
On Tuesday, Toby MacFarlane, a former insurance executive from California accused of paying $450,000 to facilitate the admission of his children to USC as purported athletic recruits, also struck a plea deal, according to court papers.
Lawyers for Janke and MacFarlane did not respond to requests for comment.
California college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer pleaded guilty in March to charges that he helped parents facilitate cheating on college entrance exams and bribed coaches at universities to falsely present the children as athletic recruits.
Prosecutors alleged that Janke and USC women’s soccer head coach Ali Khosroshahin accepted bribes from Singer to designate students as recruited athletes.
The pair designated four children of Singer’s clients as recruits in exchange for $350,000 directed to a private soccer club Janke controlled with Khosroshahin, according to a March indictment.
Khosroshahin has pleaded not guilty.
After leaving USC, Janke also helped Singer fabricate athletic profiles for students seeking admission to schools including USC, Yale and Stanford University that made them appear to be successful athletes, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said that among the children Janke created such a profile for was the younger daughter of Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli.
Loughlin and Giannulli agreed with Singer to pay $500,000 to have their two daughters named as recruits to USC’s crew team, even though they did not row competitively, to help them gain admission, according to prosecutors.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)