Solana Beach man latest to be charged in college bribery scandal

The University of Southern California was the landing spot for several students involved in an admissions scandal masterminded by William “Rick” Singer.
(Wikipedia Creative Commons)

A Solana Beach father became the 51st person to be charged in connection with a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal as the investigation continues to widen, federal prosecutors said Friday, June 28.

Jeffrey Bizzack, 59, is accused of spending $250,000 to get his son into the University of Southern California as a volleyball recruit with a false athletic profile in 2017, according to court records filed in Boston, where the case is being prosecuted.

Bizzack has already worked out a deal with the federal government, agreeing to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud, authorities said.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, signed Wednesday, June 26, prosecutors will recommend a sentence of nine months in custody, one year of supervised release, a $75,000 fine and restitution. His defense lawyer can still argue for a lower penalty. The sentence will ultimately be decided by a judge.

“Mr. Bizzack voluntarily came forward to be accountable for his actions and accept responsibility for this incident,” his Boston-based lawyer, Seth Berman, said in a statement Friday, June 28. “He deeply regrets what he did, and especially the effect it will have on his son. His son knew nothing of Mr. Bizzack’s actions. Mr. Bizzack will do his best to make up for this mistake and apologizes to USC and its hard-working students.”

Bizzack is the former president of ServiceSource, a San Francisco-based consultant and solutions company for technology, healthcare and life sciences businesses. He left in 2012, according to the company’s SEC filings. He was formerly the managing director and CEO of Accenture BPO Services, according to a ServiceSource news release.

Like the other parents implicated in the far-reaching scheme, Bizzack used William “Rick” Singer as the conduit to get his son into USC. Singer ran The Key, a college placement agency based in Newport Beach, using his connections to elite universities around the country to get the children of wealthy clients enrolled as fake athletic recruits.

According to the charging document, during the summer of 2017 Singer emailed Bizzack asking for his son’s biographical information so a false athletic profile could be created. The teen responded, sending his academic transcripts to Singer, and the records were then forwarded to Laura Janke, a former assistant soccer coach at USC who was in on the scheme.

The plan had been to pass the teen off as a water polo recruit. But Janke created a fake profile for volleyball instead and sent it to Singer, who then forwarded it to Donna Heinel, the senior associate athletic director at USC, according to the court documents. In October 2017, Heinel then presented the teen’s profile to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions, according to the charging document.

Singer liked to call the admissions method “the side door,” referring to the widely used practice at universities of reserving a certain number of spots for athletic recruits who are evaluated on different metrics than the general pool of potential students.

Bizzack’s son was sent a conditional acceptance letter as an athletic recruit shortly after — a letter that Bizzack intercepted before it got to his son, according to court records. In March 2018 the teen was formally accepted to the school.

Bizzack began to pay for the admittance in December 2017, according to court records, sending a $50,000 check to the USC “Galen Center,” the school’s indoor athletic arena. He also made multiple payments totally $200,000 to The Key’s nonprofit, which prosecutors said was a way to disguise the scheme’s cash flow while allowing parents to take charitable tax deductions.

Heinel also got paid, with money payments of $20,000 beginning in July 2018, according to prosecutors. She has pleaded not guilty.

Both Janke and Singer have pleaded guilty.

Thirty-three other parents have been charged in the scheme, and the number is expected to grow as co-conspirators cooperate with investigators, and authorities continue to probe school admissions records.

Fourteen of the parents have pleaded guilty, including Del Mar resident Toby MacFarlane last week and Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman. Nineteen other parents have pleaded not guilty and are continuing to fight the charges, including Elisabeth Kimmel, former owner of KFMB stations and a part-time San Diego resident, as well as actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli.
-- Kristina Davis is a reporter for The San Diego Union Tribune