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Press Release

Former Senior Athletic Department Administrator at the University of Southern California Sentenced to Six Months in Prison in College Admissions Case

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts

BOSTON – The former Senior Associate Athletic Director at the University of Southern California (USC) was sentenced today for using her position to facilitate students’ admission as purported athletic recruits in exchange for money.

Donna Heinel, 61, of Long Beach, Calif., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani to six months in prison and two years of supervised release. Heinel was also ordered to forfeit $160,000. In November 2021, Heinel pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud.         

As the Senior Associate Athletic Director and Senior Women’s Administrator, Heinel was one of the highest-ranking members of the USC Athletics Department and served as the liaison between athletic coaches and the USC Admissions Department. Beginning in early 2014, Heinel solicited and received bribe payments from William “Rick” Singer and his clients to facilitate their children’s admission to USC as athletic recruits. For approximately four years, Heinel misled USC’s athletic admissions subcommittee by presenting the students as recruits to USC’s athletic teams when, in reality, the coaches had not recruited them and some did not even play the sport they were purportedly being recruited to play. In some cases, Heinel falsified students’ athletic credentials when presenting them to the athletic admissions subcommittee. In exchange, Heinel received more than $1 million in payments from Singer and his clients to university accounts she oversaw. In addition, Heinel received $160,000 in payments for her own personal benefit. In total, the subcommittee on athletic admissions approved the admission of approximately two dozen applicants Heinel presented as purported recruits.

Singer previously pleaded guilty and, on Jan. 4, 2023, was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel to 42 months in prison.  

Case information, including the status of each defendant, is available here:

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Joleen D. Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; and Terry Harris, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General Eastern Regional Office made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen E. Frank, Leslie A. Wright, Kristen A. Kearney, Ian J. Stearns and Kriss Basil of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.

Updated January 6, 2023

Financial Fraud