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New USC parent charged in college scam, hinting at wider probe

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / MARCH 12

    William “Rick” Singer, front, founder of the Edge College & Career Network, exits federal court in Boston after he pleaded guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal, where ringers were hired to take SAT tests and proctors paid to look the other way.

The college admissions scandal that has rocked academia expanded as authorities charged yet another parent in the case.

Jeffrey Bizzack, 59, of Solana Beach, California, will admit to paying $50,000 to the University of Southern California and $200,000 to the scam’s mastermind, college counselor William “Rick” Singer, to get his son into USC, according to the Justice Department.

He becomes the 34th parent and 51st person to be charged in the scandal, and the first new defendant since federal prosecutors in Boston announced the case more than three months ago.

The new charge appears to confirm the fears of some of Singer’s clients that prosecutors are aggressively pressing ahead with their investigation. Singer, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the U.S., has told authorities he had hundreds of clients. It’s unclear where the probe will lead, but several of those who have pleaded guilty are cooperating with the government.

Surfer’s Partner?

Bizzack is a business partner of professional surfer Kelly Slater, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday. In a 2017 article on the Tracks surfing website, Slater said Bizzack was his longtime partner in several businesses, including surfboards and a clothing line.

Seth Berman, a lawyer for Bizzack, said his client once worked for ServiceSource, a nonprofit group that helps people with disabilities.

“Mr. Bizzack voluntarily came forward to be accountable for his actions and accept responsibility for this incident. He deeply regrets what he did, and especially the effect it will have on his son,” Berman said in a statement. “His son knew nothing of Mr. Bizzack’s actions.”

Phony Athlete

In July 2017, Singer asked Bizzack for biographical information about his son that prosecutors said was for a phony athletic profile. Later that month, Bizzack emailed Singer his son’s academic transcripts, which were forwarded to Laura Janke, the former USC assistant soccer coach, prosecutors said.

Janke then created a fabricated volleyball profile for the son and sent it to Singer, who forwarded it to “the senior associate athletic director at USC,” according to the government.

Janke has pleaded guilty in the case and is cooperating in the investigation.

Bizzack’s son received conditional admission to USC as a student athlete in November 2017. In December, at Singer’s direction, Bizzack made a $50,000 payment to USC’s Galen Center, a sports facility, according to the U.S. He also made a number of payments totaling $200,000 to a purported charitable foundation Singer ran, the government said.

In March 2018, prosecutors said, Bizzack’s son was formally accepted to the school, according to court documents.

Prison Term

While Bizzack could have faced a prison term of 18 to 24 months for his crime, prosecutors instead agreed to recommend a nine-month sentence and a fine of $75,000 as part of a plea agreement.

Gary Polakovic, a spokesman for USC, didn’t immediately return a voicemail seeking comment on the status of Bizzack’s son at the school or the Galen Center donation.

“We are in the process of identifying donations that may have been received in connection with the alleged scheme and determining how to redirect those funds,” the college says on its website.

None of the colleges or students in the scandal have been charged.

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