Ex-USC soccer coach and accountant plead guilty in college admissions scandal

Posted at 10:52 AM, Jun 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-27 12:52:03-04

A former University of Southern California coach who took bribes to get students into the school and the accountant who made the scam look legitimate pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to racketeering conspiracy charges.

Ali Khosroshahin, who coached the USC women’s soccer team from 2007 to 2013, admitted in court that he and an assistant coach designated four students as recruits to the team to facilitate their entrance to the school, even though the students did not play competitive soccer.

In exchange, Rick Singer, the mastermind of the scam, directed payments totaling about $350,000 to a private soccer club controlled by Khosroshahin and the assistant coach, Laura Janke. Prosecutors recommended that Khosroshahin, 49, be sentenced to 46 months in prison.

Steven Masera, 69, also pleaded guilty Thursday. He worked as an accountant and financial officer for the college consulting company at the heart of the scam, The Key, as well as for the fake charity Key Worldwide Foundation. Both The Key and the foundation were run by Singer, who has pleaded guilty to several federal charges and has a sentencing hearing in September.

At Singer’s direction, Masera would dole out the money — usually $10,000 per student — to those who helped the students cheat on standardized tests. He also mailed invoices requesting payments from parents who had struck a deal with Singer.

“At the request of Rick Singer, yes, ma’am, I sent every one of those checks,” he told US District Court Judge Indira Talwani in court Thursday.

Prosecutors said in court that he laundered $21 million in bribe payments as part of the scheme.

Masera, who initially pleaded not guilty, also agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation. In exchange, prosecutors recommended a sentence of 57 months in prison, one year of supervised release, a fine, restitution and forfeiture.

Khosroshahin and Masera were among a dozen coaches, test administrators and The Key employees indicted on a racketeering conspiracy charge in March as part of the admissions scam. In addition, 33 parents, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud for allegedly participating in the scheme.

Janke pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering in May and agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation.

Khosroshahin was fired as USC coach in 2013 after the team finished with sub-.500 records in three straight seasons, USC said at the time.

“I would like to thank USC for the privilege and opportunity to lead the women’s soccer program, and I wish them all the best in the future. It was tremendous to be part of the Trojan Family,” Khosroshahin said then.

Only one of the defendants in the sprawling case has been sentenced. Former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer was sentenced this month to two years supervised release, meaning he will not spend any time in prison.