Former vineyard owner gets 5 months in college bribery case
BOSTON (AP) — The former owner of a California wine business was sentenced Friday to five months in prison for paying $50,000 to rig his daughter’s ACT score and for trying to bribe her way into the University of Southern California as a fake water polo recruit.
Agustin Huneeus, 53, of San Francisco, pleaded guilty in May to fraud and conspiracy in a deal with prosecutors. He is the fifth parent to be sentenced in the college admissions scandal .
Huneeus was arrested before the deal was complete and his daughter was not admitted.
His sentence also includes a $100,000 fine and 500 hours of community service. Prosecutors had pushed for 15 months, the longest term they have sought in the case.
Huneeus is among few parents accused of pursuing both angles of the scam: Most either cheated on their children’s college entrance exams or paid bribes to get them admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, but not both.
Prosecutors said Huneeus’ dual involvement merited a lengthy sentence. But his lawyers argued that, because the bribe was never carried out, he didn’t cause as much harm as some other parents.
Huneeus said in court documents that he realizes cheating for his daughter “was not about helping her, it was about how it would make me feel. In the end my own ego brought me down.”
His prison sentence is the longest so far in the scheme. Others have ranged from 14 days to four months, with fines from $30,000 to $100,000.
Huneeus previously owned and operated his family’s Napa wine business, Huneeus Vintners. He resigned after his arrest.
A total of 52 people have been charged in the scheme, including parents, test proctors, college sports officials and others.
Fifteen parents have pleaded guilty, while 19 are contesting the charges, including “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying $500,000 to get their two daughters into USC as fake athletes.
Trials are expected to begin in 2020, but a federal judge this week delayed initial filing deadlines while lawyers sort through more than 3 million pages of records tied to the case.