A former assistant women's soccer coach at the University of Southern California admitted Tuesday to creating fake sports profiles for the children of wealthy parents, including actress Lori Loughlin's daughters Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose, in exchange for bribes.
In a deal with prosecutors, Laura Janke pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering and agreed to also cooperate with the government’s ongoing investigation into the nation's largest-ever college admissions scandal masterminded by Rick Singer.
Janke, 36, was appearing before U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani, who accepted the plea deal. Parents used the fabricated athletics profiles, prosecutors say, to ensure their children would get into colleges of their liking.
Loughlin has a June 3 court date after pleading not guilty.
Janke, who admitted to being involved in the scheme from 2012 to 2019, is one of five former coaches or administrators at USC to be charged in the nationwide college admissions scam, but the first to plead guilty.
In a trade for her plea and cooperation, federal prosecutors have recommended the low-end of sentencing guidelines, which would mean 27 to 33 months in prison, substantially less than the maximum of 20 years in prison. The government has also recommended an unspecified financial penalty for Janke, 12 months of supervised leave as well as a forfeiture payment of $134,213 and an undetermined restitution amount.
Janke's sentencing hearing is set for Oct. 17.
Janke and her attorney Stephen Huggard declined to comment as they exited the courtroom.
Prosecutors say that Singer directed payments totaling $300,000 between 2012 and 2014 to a private soccer club controlled by Janke and former women's USC soccer head coach Ali Khosroshahin. In exchange, Janke designated four children of Singer's clients as women's soccer recruits despite each of them not even playing the sport. Khosroshahin has pleaded not guilty.
Janke's time at USC ended in January 2014. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen, who presented the prosecution's case, said she continued to create fake profiles with Khosroshahin, who had been fired from the university the previous year. They had payments directed to a private soccer camp they operated.
Rosen said the fake profiles were submitted to other colleges in addition to USC. He said Janke's recommended forfeiture was determined by splitting the bribes collected by the two.
At one point, Huggard, Janke's attorney, interjected to say the applicants with fake profiles were simply recommended to an admissions subcommittee as recruited athletes, "not put on the team." But he did not dispute the facts presented by the prosecution.
Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 to Singer's nonprofit for their two daughters to be classified as crew recruits to get them accepted into USC.
In one of the two fabrications, prosecutors say that Singer emailed Janke on July 14, 2017, directing here to prepare a crew profile for Loughlin's younger daughter, social media influencer Olivia Jade.
Janke responded: “Ok sounds good. Please send me the pertinent information and I will get started.”
Later, Singer emailed the couple requesting information for the crew profile, prosecutors say. He told them the profile would present her – falsely – as a crew coxswain for the L.A. Marina Club team. He requested an "action photo" from the couple of her daughter participating in crew.
Giannulli sent back a photo of the daughter on an ergometer, a type of indoor rowing machine.
The daughter's application was presented to USC's subcommittee for athletics admission on Nov. 2, 2017. She was accepted into USC two weeks later.
Prosecutors say the following email exchange took place:
“CONGRATULATIONS!!!” Singer wrote to Loughlin in the subject line of an email on Nov. 16, 2017. He attached her daughter's acceptance letter.
Loughlin responded: “This is wonderful news!" She included a high-five emoji.
“Please continue to keep hush hush till March," Singer wrote back.
"Yes of course," Loughlin responded.
Prosecutors haven't said how many profiles Janke fabricated in all as part of the scheme.
In court, Talwani repeated a line she's used in plea hearings of other defendants by questioning why the plea agreement does not set a cap on the amount of restitution. She called it a "blank check" that can't be appealed.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen disagreed. The judge countered: "But there's nothing that ties my hand."
“I have an obligation to ensure that a person is entering into an agreement because they know and fully understand the terms of the agreement," Talwani said. "Not because they are making a bet on how (I will decide.)”
She accepted the plea deal anyway.
Janke is the 11th defendant to plead guilty out of 50 charged in the "Varsity Blues" scandal. Her court appearance follows Monday's guilty plea of actress Felicity Huffman, the fifth parent charged with crimes to plead guilty out of 33 charged. Nine additional parents have agreed to plead guilty and have plea hearings scheduled in the coming weeks.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USC coach accused of faking profiles for Lori Loughlin's daughters pleads guilty