Jury convicts ex-coach in admissions case

Jovan Vavic, former head coach of the University of Southern California water polo teams, was convicted Friday by a federal jury of soliciting and accepting bribes to promote the admission of students to USC as purported athletic recruits.

Conviction was on all counts after a five-week trial. The charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud, one of the charges, carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. The charge of conspiracy to corrupt federal programs, another charge, carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. The charge of wire fraud and honest services wire fraud carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Sentencing will take place at a later date.

Vavic’s conviction brings the number of convictions in the Varsity Blues admissions scandal to 54. The only defendant without a conviction was pardoned by President Trump on his last day in office.

“With today’s sentencing, the government has now held 55 people accountable in what is arguably one of the biggest scandals in academia’s history,” said U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins . “To say that the conduct in this case is reprehensible is an understatement. The rich, powerful and famous, dripping with privileges and rights, have used their influence and money to steal college admission places from more hard-working, qualified and deserving students. This case was fair and I couldn’t be more proud that our prosecutors got this verdict.

Most of those convicted were parents or coaches.

The case against Vavic

Beginning in 2013, Rick Singer, the mastermind of the scandal, made payments to a USC account that funded Vavic’s team and paid for his children’s private school tuition. In return, Vavic would flag the students as purported water polo players to be admitted as recruited athletes. Vavic has also agreed to recruit other coaches to participate in the program.

Vavic was a very successful coach and served as head coach of the men’s and women’s water polo teams at USC for over 20 years. During that time, he led teams to more than a dozen national championships. USC fired Vavic after his arrest in 2019.

Prosecutors noted that Vavic was an employee of a university (like others who pleaded guilty). Joleen D. Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations Division, said, “Without the deliberate involvement of college coaches and officials like Mr. Vavic, this scheme would have failed from the start. Instead, Mr. Vavic and others abused their positions at prestigious universities for nothing but financial gain.

Prosecutors in the case used the testimony of, among others, a former USC football coach, Ali Khosroshahin. the Los Angeles Times reported that he said Singer also asked him to help get his clients’ children admitted as soccer recruits in return for payments to the soccer program. When Khosroshahin initially balked, saying ‘it wasn’t right’, Singer called him a ‘boy scout’, said he had to ‘stop being so black and white and go for the grey’ , and told him to speak with Vavic, he mentioned.

Khosroshahin, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit racketeering as part of a deal with the government, said he met Vavic in his office. He said this about Vavic’s advice: “He was very direct. His reaction was… that’s exactly what he said. He said, ‘F— ’em. Just do it. And tell them they’re the best players you’ve seen.

Vavic’s primary defense was that the prosecution ignored how USC considered a family’s ability to donate in admissions decisions.

A conviction

Also on Friday, Mark Riddell was sentenced to four months in prison for his role in the scandal. Riddell admitted to taking $240,000 in bribes to help people cheat on the SAT and ACT.

here’s how prosecutors describes what he did: “In many cases, Singer facilitated cheating by advising his clients to ask for more time in exams, including asking their children to pretend to have learning disabilities in order to obtain the required medical documentation. After the extended deadline was granted, Singer asked clients to change the exam location to one of two testing centers: a public high school in Houston, Texas, or a private college preparatory school in West Hollywood, Texas. California. Singer had established relationships at these locations with test administrators Niki Williams and Igor Dvorskiy, who admitted taking bribes of $5,000 to $10,000 per test to facilitate the cheating scheme. Specifically, Williams and Dvorskiy allowed Riddell to take the exams in place of the students; give students the correct answers in exams; or to correct student answers after completing exams.

Riddell was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and forfeit $239,449. (The government has already raised $165,878.)

Singer typically paid Riddell $10,000 for each test. Singer’s clients paid him between $15,000 and $75,000 per test.