College bribery scandal figure freed early over virus fear
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California winemaker who was convicted in the college admissions bribery scandal has been released early from federal prison because of concerns over the coronavirus.
Agustin Huneeus Jr., 54, was freed on March 17, two weeks before the end of his five-month prison term, after U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani found that “extraordinary and compelling reasons” justified the early release, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The judge denied a similar request from Devin Sloane, a Los Angeles business executive whose four-month term ends April 1. Talwani said Sloane did not show that he had exhausted administrative means of obtaining early release and did not demonstrate a “life-threatening condition."
For health privacy reasons, the motions by the men were sealed but the judge cited the coronavirus outbreak and the vintner’s “unique health circumstances” in allowing him to serve out his sentence under home confinement, the Times reported.
Huneeus, whose family owns several Napa Valley wineries, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in the scandal that has embroiled dozens of wealthy families and prestigious universities across the country.
Prosecutors said Huneeus paid $50,000 for a proctor to sit with his daughter and correct answers as she took the SAT exam. He also paid $50,000 to a University of Southern California athletic department official and agreed to pay $200,000 more when his daughter was accepted to the school as a water polo player. He was charged before the payment was made.
Sloane pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy for paying $250,000 to get his son admitted to USC, also as a phony athlete.