Surfing exec takes deal in college scam
A Southern California father has admitted to paying $250,000 to get his son into USC as a bogus volleyball player and will plead guilty to fraud conspiracy, his attorney and prosecutors say, as the list of wealthy and powerful parents charged in a federal investigation into college admissions fraud grew for the first time Friday since William “Rick” Singer’s decadelong scheme was uncovered in March.
Jeffrey Bizzack of Solana Beach will plead guilty to one count of fraud conspiracy, the U.S. attorney in Massachusetts said Friday. Prosecutors will recommend Bizzack, 59, be imprisoned for nine months, fined $75,000 and given one year of supervised release.
Bizzack paid Singer $250,000 to ensure his son was admitted to USC, according to his plea agreement. Singer, a Newport Beach college consultant, has admitted to orchestrating a national test-fixing and bribery ring that defrauded some of the country’s most selective universities.
Bizzack signed the plea agreement Wednesday, court records show. His lawyer said Bizzack came forward voluntarily and wanted to accept responsibility for his crimes, which he “deeply regrets.” His son knew nothing of the bribes his father paid to have him admitted to USC, said the attorney, Seth Berman.
“Mr. Bizzack will do his best to make up for this mistake and apologizes to USC and its hardworking students,” Berman said.
In court filings and interviews with potential witnesses, prosecutors have indicated that more parents will be charged. They have secured the cooperation of several key figures in Singer’s scheme, including Singer himself; his accountant, who pleaded guilty Thursday and admitted laundering $21 million in bribes; several coaches who took payoffs, and two parents who paid them.
Bizzack began conspiring with Singer in the summer of 2017 to ensure his son was admitted to USC, according to charging documents.
Singer had Laura Janke, a former assistant soccer coach at USC, create a fake athletic profile for Bizzack’s son that portrayed him as a top volleyball player.
Janke has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and is cooperating with investigators.
Singer sent the fabricated profile to Donna Heinel, then a senior administrator in USC’s athletics department, the charging documents say. Heinel presented Bizzack’s son to a USC admissions committee in October 2017, which approved him as a volleyball recruit, according to the charging documents.
Heinel has been indicted on a racketeering conspiracy charge, accused of using her clout as the third-most powerful figure in USC’s athletics department to slip the children of Singer’s clients into the school by recruiting them for sports they didn’t actually play competitively. She has pleaded not guilty.
USC mailed Bizzack’s son a letter in November 2017, saying he’d been conditionally admitted as a student athlete. Bizzack “intercepted” the letter, the charging documents say. At Singer’s direction, he wrote a $50,000 check the following month to the USC Galen Center, according to the documents. They don’t say who controlled the Galen Center account.
Bizzack paid $200,000 to Singer’s charity, according to the charging documents. His Key Worldwide Foundation was no foundation, prosecutors say, but rather a laundromat used to disguise and funnel more than $21 million that Singer doled out in bribes to coaches, administrators, test proctors and various bagmen he allegedly kept on his payroll.
Singer paid Heinel $20,000 in monthly payments, prosecutors allege. Their true purpose was masked by false invoices Heinel sent Singer, including one in November 2018 that she was being paid for the “interview, evaluation and assessment” of several students, according to charging documents filed in Bizzack’s case. One of the students was Bizzack’s son.
Bizzack is the longtime business partner of Kelly Slater, the world champion surfer. Slater in 2017 told Tracks, an Australian surfing magazine, that Bizzack is “my partner in everything I’ve done in the past few years,” someone who “is just the bones and structure of everything that we’ve done.”
Viva, a magazine published by the New Zealand Herald, asked Slater in 2016 whom he considered his heroes.
“It would probably embarrass him,” he said, “but Jeff Bizzack (my business partner) is one of my heroes. He has worked with me on a number of different businesses, and he is [a] great influence, personally and professionally.”