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6 Months in Jail for Former Southern Cal Official

January 9, 2023

Donna Heinel, former senior associate athletic director at the University of Southern California, was sentenced last week for using her position to facilitate students’ admission as purported athletic recruits in exchange for money.

U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani imposed a sentence of six months in prison and two years of supervised release.

Beginning in 2014, Heinel solicited and received bribe payments from Varsity Blues mastermind 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.

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