Michelle Janavs, a former California food executive and USC-related parent, pleaded guilty Monday to paying $300,000 to participate in both the college entrance exam scheme and the athlete recruitment scheme.
Janavs conspired to use bribery in order to get her elder daughter admitted to USC as a beach volleyball recruit even though she did not play competitively, according to an FBI affidavit.
Around Aug. 24, 2018, William “Rick” Singer, the mastermind behind the scheme who pleaded guilty, requested Janavs send photos of her daughter playing beach and indoor volleyball. He then allegedly emailed the photos to Donna Heinel, the then senior associate athletic director and senior women’s administrator at the USC, along with a falsified athletic profile that detailed Janavs’ daughter winning multiple beach volleyball tournaments in California.
Around Oct. 3, 2018, Heinel presented Janavs’ daughter to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions as a beach volleyball recruit and about two weeks later, Singer forwarded a letter to Janavs stating that her daughter had been conditionally admitted to USC, according to the document. However, she was never formally admitted to USC as the university denied all 2019 applicants related to the scandal.
Around Oct. 26, 2018, Janavs mailed $50,000 to Heinel payable to the USC Women’s Athletic Fund. Heinel was fired from USC in March after allegedly receiving bribes to help parents take advantage of the lax admissions standards for USC athletes, but pled not guilty.
The FBI document also shows that Janavs was also involved in the college entrance exam scandal. Around Aug. 11, 2017, Janavs received communication from ACT, Inc. stating that her daughter had been authorized for extended time on the test. Two months later, Janavs’ daughter took the ACT test proctored by a cooperating witness at a test center in which Rick Singer was working with Igor Dvorskiy, a test administrator who was accepting bribes to facilitate the entrance exam scheme. Dvorskiy has agreed to plead guilty.
Janavs’ daughter scored 32 out of 36 on the ACT and the parent sent a $50,000 check to the Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF), a nonprofit founded by Singer, which prosecutors allege Singer used to funnel funds from wealthy parents to bride college administrators and coaches. He then directed a KWF associate to pay $18,000 to a test proctor used by Singer to administer the ACT and $13,000 to Dvorskiy. During the fall of 2018, the doctored ACT scores were included in Janavs’ daughter’s USC application.
One month after her first daughter got conditionally accepted by USC, Janavs reached out to Singer to “discuss plans to engage in the college entrance exam scheme for her younger daughter.” In this case, no bribery was mentioned in the FBI document. Around Feb. 5, 2019, Janavs mailed KWF a $25,000 check. After the daughter took the ACT on Feb. 9, 2019, at the same test center as her sister, Janavs wired $25,000 to a Boston, Massachusetts account in KWF’s name around Feb. 12, 2019. She was not aware that Singer had opened that account at the direction of federal agents.
When emailed for comment, USC directed Annenberg Media to their question-and-answer website on the college admission scandal, which was last updated Aug. 11.
Janavs’ sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2020.
Editor note: since Janavs’ daughter did not enroll at USC, this article refers to Huneeus as a “USC-related parent” instead of “USC parent.”