CBS2’s David Goldstein tracked down and confronted former USC Senior Associate Athletic Director Donna Heinel, who is accused of taking more than $1.3 million in bribes to get 24 non-athletes admitted to USC as athletic recruits.
Heinel resides in the exclusive Long Beach community of Naples, but has put her home on the market for just under $2 million.
“No comment,” she responded bluntly when questioned by Goldstein regarding her alleged behavior.
Working as a Lyft driver is a far cry from her lofty position as one of USC’s top athletic administrators, where she was known as “The Gatekeeper.” Her OK could get high school athletes a ticket into USC.
Parents accused in the scandal allegedly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to falsify credentials for their children, or fabricate profiles and fake pictures, in order to present them as athletes in sports they did not actually compete in to not only Heinel, but to coaches and administrators at other colleges.
Federal prosecutors allege that Heinel worked with Newport Beach businessman Rick Singer, the mastermind of the scheme. Singer has already pleaded guilty to fraud and racketeering charges and is cooperating with investigators in the largest college cheating scandal ever prosecuted in the U.S.
According to court documents, Heinel’s alleged recruits included the two daughters of actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Massimo Giannulli, both of whom have pleaded not guilty to charges they paid a combined $500,000 in bribes to Singer to get their daughters into USC by pretending to be crew recruits, even though they “did not row competitively or otherwise participate in crew.”
The complaint alleges that Heinel presented the daughters’ applications to USC. Then Singer allegedly emailed Giannulli “please send $50K payment to the person below: Donna Heinel.”
She was fired by USC on March 12, the same day the FBI charged her and 49 others in the scheme in which wealthy families allegedly paid millions to Singer to help their children cheat on standardized tests and bribe test administrators and college coaches to help get their kids into top universities like USC, UCLA, Yale, Stanford and Georgetown.
Some coaches and parents, including Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman, have already pleaded guilty in the case.
Heinel, however, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering.