A North Bay couple pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribing their daughter’s way into the University of Southern California as part of the college admissions cheating scheme.
Diane Blake and Todd Blake from Ross in Marin County appeared before a Boston federal court judge via video conference because of the coronavirus pandemic and admitted to participating in the bribery scheme involving wealthy parents and elite universities across the country.
Under their plea deals, Diane Blake has agreed to serve six weeks in prison, while Todd Blake has agreed to serve four months. The judge said he will decide whether to accept the deals after considering the presentencing report, a document that contains background on defendants and helps guide sentencing decision.
Emails seeking comment were sent to attorneys for the Blakes.
The couple pleaded guilty to working with the admitted mastermind of the bribery scheme William “Rick” Singer to have their daughter admitted to USC as a star volleyball player with fake athletic credentials. Prosecutors say they paid $50,000 to USC Women’s Athletics and $200,000 to Singer’s sham charity.
Diane Blake, 55, pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud. Todd Blake, 54, pleaded guilty to the same charge, as well as one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
They are the 27th and 28th parents to plead guilty in the case dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” They’re scheduled to be sentenced in November.
They were were among dozens of people charged last year in the bribery scheme. The parents paid hefty bribes to get their kids into top universities with bogus test scores or fake athletic credentials, authorities said.
Other parents who have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme include “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, who admitted to paying $500,000 to get their two daughters into USC as crew recruits, even though neither girl was a rower.
Loughlin and Giannulli are scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 21. If the judge accepts their plea deals, Loughlin will be sentenced to two months in prison and Giannulli will be sentenced to five months.
The famous couple urged the judge this week to cut their bail from $1 million to $100,000. They also asked the judge to remove the requirement that their bonds be secured by a lien on their house. The defense said prosecutors have agreed to their request.
“There is no indication that Defendants will flee rather than face sentencing,” Loughlin and Giannulli’s attorneys wrote.