College Admissions Scandal: Ex-insurance executive sentenced to 6 months in prison
The longest prison sentence so far in the college admissions scandal has just been handed down: 6 months
A judge on Wednesday sentenced Toby MacFarlane, a former executive at WFG National Title Insurance Company, to six months in prison for paying $450,000 to get his two children into the University of Southern California as athletic recruits.
It’s a longer sentence than the 12 other parents who have already received sentences in the college admissions scandal.
MacFarlane pleaded guilty to one count of honest services mail fraud, but U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said he saw this as bribery. In addition to six months in jail, MacFarlane was sentenced to two years probation, 200 hours community service and ordered to pay a $150,000 fine.
Video: Former insurance executive sentenced to 6 months in college admissions scandal
“So he thought he was going to make a gift to Mr. Singer and they’d miraculously get into USC?” Gorton said. “You don’t have to use the word bribery or bribe to have an understanding of what was to happen.”
Gorton called MacFarlane a thief and said he is no different from a common criminal. Gorton is a new judge in the college admissions scandal, and is seen as a tougher than some of the others who have presided over previous cases.
Gorton will sentence four other parents in the early part of 2020 who changed their pleas as a third charge of bribery was about to hit them. He is also set to preside over Lori Loughlin’s case.
MacFarlane will self-surrender for prison on January 2, with a request for a low security facility in Southern California.
MacFarlane referred to the payments as the “worst actions I’ve ever taken in my life. I’m completely humiliated and shamed.” His lawyers said he lost his job and his professional license since his arrest, along with some of his properties.
According to prosecutors, MacFarlane paid $200,000 to William “Rick” Singer, the organizer of the scheme, in 2014 to get his daughter admitted as a soccer recruit. A phony athlete profile created for his daughter said she was a three-time “U.S. Club Soccer All American,” even though she never earned the honor, according to The Associated Press.
MacFarlane later paid $250,000 to get his son into USC as a basketball recruit, with $50,000 going to an account managed by former USC athletics official Donna Heinel. Heinel has pleaded not guilty to federal charges, while Singer has pleaded guilty to masterminding the scheme.
Earlier Wednesday, West Hollywood test administrator Igor Dvorskiy pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering. Dvorskiy received almost $200,000 from Singer between 2017-19 to run a corrupt test site. Dvorskiy is set to be sentenced on February 7.
More than 50 people have been charged in the college admissions scheme. Nineteen parents have pleaded guilty so far, 12 other parents have been sentenced and actress Felicity Huffman already served out her 13-day sentence.
Until earlier this year, MacFarlane was a senior executive of WFG National Title Insurance Company. His lawyers say he lost his job and his professional license following his arrest and he has had to sell some of his properties.
In a plea for leniency, MacFarlane said he was entering the most serious personal crisis of his life when Singer entered his life. MacFarlane’s marriage was falling apart, he said, and he was being treated for anxiety, depression and insomnia.
“I knew it was wrong, but at the time I was feeling completely overwrought and all I could think of was not having to worry about my kids getting into college,” MacFarlane wrote in a letter to the court. “Foolishly and selfishly, I took what seemed like an easy way out.”
Prosecutors said he deserved prison time because he used the scam twice and paid more than others in the case. His personal turmoil was no excuse, prosecutors said.
“Many people experience similar hardships without turning to criminal conduct,” prosecutors wrote in court documents. By repeating the scheme for his son, they said, MacFarlane demonstrated that it was not just a “transitory lapse in judgment.”
More than 50 people have been charged in the admissions scheme, which involves wealthy and famous parents accused of paying bribes to rig their children’s test scores or to get them admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes. A total of 19 parents have pleaded guilty, while another 15 are contesting the charges.
Also on Wednesday, a former Los Angeles test administrator pleaded guilty in the test cheating scandal. Igor Dvorskiy entered the plea in federal court in Boston after reaching a deal with prosecutors in October.
Dvorskiy is accused of accepting bribes to help parents rig their children’s scores on the SAT and ACT. Authorities say he received $10,000 per student while administering tests at a Los Angeles school. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering, and has agreed to give up $150,000 earned through the scheme.