Parent in College Admissions Case Pleads Guilty
BOSTON – A California woman pleaded guilty today in federal court in Boston to paying $300,000 to participate in both the college entrance exam cheating scheme and athletic recruitment scheme.
Michelle Janavs, 48, of Newport Coast, Calif., pleaded guilty to an indictment charging her with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton scheduled sentencing for Feb. 25, 2020.
Beginning in 2017, Janavs conspired with Rick Singer and others to secure her children’s admission to selective colleges and universities through bribery and fraud. On Oct. 28, 2017, Janavs’ older daughter took the ACT exam at a test center in West Hollywood that Singer “controlled” through a corrupt test proctor, Mark Riddell, who reviewed and corrected her answers. In November 2017, Janavs sent a $50,000 check to KWF to pay for the fraud. In February 2019, Janavs older daughter again took the ACT at the West Hollywood Test Center, and Riddell corrected her answers. Later that month, Janavs wired $25,000 to KWF and mailed a $25,000 check to KWF. Singer, in turn, passed bribes to Riddell and to Igor Dvorskiy, the administrator of the test center.
Beginning in 2018, Janavs agreed to with Singer to facilitate her older daughter’s admission to the University of Southern California (USC) as a purported volleyball recruit. In August 2018, Janavs emailed Singer photos of her daughter playing volleyball. In October 2018, a USC athletics administrator, Donna Heinel, secured approval to admit Janavs’ daughter from the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions based on the falsified athletic credentials. Later that month, Janavs mailed Heinel a $50,000 check made payable to USC Women’s Athletic Fund. Janavs was arrested before her older daughter received her formal admission to USC and, accordingly, did not pay the remaining $150,000 of the initially agreed upon amount.
Case information, including the status of each defendant, charging documents and plea agreements are available here: https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/investigations-college-admissions-and-testing-bribery-scheme.
The charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud provides for a maximum sentence of 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. The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the money laundering. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric S. Rosen, Justin D. O’Connell, Leslie A. Wright and Kristen A. Kearney of Lelling’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit are prosecuting the cases.
The details contained in the court documents are allegations and the remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.