Solana Beach father pleads guilty in college bribery scheme

Jeffrey Bizzack, left, arrives with a member of his legal team at federal court in Boston where he pleaded guilty Wednesday to paying to get his son into USC as a fake volleyball recruit.
(Josh Reynolds / Associated Press)

A California man accused of paying $250,000 to get his son into USC pleaded guilty to a federal charge Wednesday, July 24.

Jeffrey Bizzack of Solana Beach entered the plea Wednesday morning, July 24, in Boston federal court. He had agreed in June to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

The 59-year-old business associate of professional surfer Kelly Slater admitted paying $250,000 to get his son admitted to USC as a fake volleyball recruit. His son was accepted in 2018. Bizzack’s lawyers have said his son did not know about the arrangement.

Prosecutors were recommending nine months in prison and a $75,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for October.

Bizzack, is the 51st person charged in a sweeping scheme hatched by Newport Beach college consultant William “Rick” Singer that involved rigging test scores and bribing coaches to get students into elite schools.

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 last month 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.

Bizzack is Slater’s longtime business partner. Slater, a multiple World Surf League champion, told the Australian surfing magazine Tracks in 2017 that Bizzack is “my partner in everything I’ve done in the past few years,” who “is just the bones and structure of everything that we’ve done.”

— Los Angeles Times staff writer Matthew Ormseth contributed to this report.