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Press Release

Parent in College Admissions Case Agrees to Plead Guilty

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
CEO will admit to paying $500,000 to facilitate her child's admission to USC using admissions slot reserved for recruited athletes

BOSTON – The chief executive officer of a California liquor distribution company has agreed to plead guilty to a conspiracy charge in connection with securing her son’s fraudulent admission to the University of Southern California (USC) as a purported athletic recruit.

Marci Palatella, 66, of Hillsborough, Calif., will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud. According to the terms of the plea agreement, the parties have agreed to a sentence of six weeks in prison, a $250,000 fine, two years of supervised release, with a condition of home confinement for the first six months of supervised release, and 500 hours of community service.

As set forth in the charging document, Palatella agreed with William “Rick” Singer and others to pay $500,000 to facilitate her son’s admission to USC as a football recruit, even though he was not actually being recruited and would not play on the USC football team. 

Palatella will be the 33rd parent to plead guilty in the case.

The charge of conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud provides for a sentence of up 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. 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; Ramsey E. Covington, Acting 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 Justin D. O’Connell, Leslie A. Wright, Kristen A. Kearney, Ian J. Stearns, and Stephen E. Frank 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 August 24, 2021