Skip to main content
Press Release

Former University Athletic Official Pleads Guilty in College Admissions Case

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

BOSTON – The former senior women’s administrator at the University of Southern California (USC) pleaded guilty today in connection with a scheme to admit students as purported athletic recruits in exchange for money.

Donna Heinel, 60, of Long Beach, Calif., pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud. U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani scheduled sentencing for March 11, 2022.        

According to the terms of the plea agreement, the government will recommend a prison sentence within the sentencing guideline range, a fine within the sentencing guidelines range, two years of supervised release and forfeiture.

As set forth in the charging document, Heinel solicited and received bribe payments from William “Rick” Singer and his clients to facilitate their children’s admission to USC as athletic recruits. Specifically, Heinel presented athletic profiles to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions, presenting the students as legitimate recruits to USC’s athletic teams when in fact they were not. Heinel did so in exchange for payments, including to university athletic accounts she designated, without disclosing that fact to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions. 

The charge of honest services wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, forfeiture, and restitution. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Case information, including the status of each defendant, charging documents and plea agreements are available here:

Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell; 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 Mark Deckett, Resident Agent in Charge of the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leslie A. Wright, Kristen A. Kearney and Kriss Basil of Mendell’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated November 5, 2021