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Fourteenth parent pleads guilty in college admission bribery scandal

Toby MacFarlane leaves federal court in April in Boston after a hearing in the college admissions bribery case. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

BOSTON — A California businessman pleaded guilty here Friday in the college admission bribery scandal, the 14th parent to admit to fraud conspiracy in the past two months.

Toby MacFarlane paid a total of $450,000, federal prosecutors say, to facilitate admission of two children to the University of Southern California as purported athletic recruits.

Court documents show his daughter was admitted in 2014 with an application that falsely indicated she was a “US Club Soccer All American” for three years in high school. She graduated in 2018, documents show, but never played soccer for USC. MacFarlane’s son was admitted in 2017, documents show, after a consultant sent a falsified basketball profile of the applicant to a USC athletic official. The son attended USC briefly, records show, but did not play basketball.

Trojan horse: USC was most frequent target in alleged admissions scheme

The consultant was William “Rick” Singer, the admitted mastermind of a scam that sought to help the children of wealthy parents get into prominent universities through cheating on admission tests and using fake credentials to pose as athletes.

Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other crimes in March when the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts revealed charges against 50 people in a case that rocked the college admissions world.

Among the 50 charged were 33 parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Huffman has pleaded guilty, while Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty.

MacFarlane, 56, of Del Mar, Calif., is a former senior executive at a title insurance company. Prosecutors are recommending 15 months in prison and a $95,000 fine as punishment for one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton scheduled sentencing for Nov. 13.

MacFarlane told the judge he is a graduate of USC. He did not dispute any of the facts the prosecution presented at the plea hearing, and he declined to speak with reporters after leaving the courtroom.

The federal investigation, known as Varsity Blues, revealed a scheme to compromise the admissions process at several highly competitive schools. Yale, Stanford and Georgetown universities have disclosed that they expelled students connected to Singer.

USC officials also have been reviewing the credentials of students connected to Singer. On Monday, USC Interim President Wanda M. Austin wrote that the university had completed its investigation of a group of students and notified them of the outcomes. Austin declined to reveal whether any were expelled, citing privacy laws. “What we can say is that the university remains committed to making the appropriate decisions based on the facts of each case,” she wrote.

Austin wrote that investigations of possible admissions violations for other students are ongoing. Previously, she had said the university is also reviewing graduates who may be connected to the alleged scheme.

USC, she wrote, is “taking the necessary steps to safeguard the integrity of our admissions process and to ensure we conduct ourselves in a manner that is consistent with our values.”

First sentence in college admission scandal seen as a setback for prosecutors

Anderson reported from Washington.