College admissions cheating scandal: 12th parent sentenced gets 2 months in scheme

Jeffrey Bizzack, 59, paid $250,000 to get his son admitted to USC as a volleyball recruit.
Image: California businessman Jeffrey Bizzack arrives at the federal courthouse in Boston
California businessman Jeffrey Bizzack arrives at the federal courthouse before being sentenced in connection with a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme, in Boston on Oct. 30, 2019.Katherine Taylor / Reuters

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By Phil Helsel

The former executive of the governing body of professional surfers was sentenced to two months in prison for paying a quarter of a million dollars to get his son admitted to a California university as part of a massive college admissions cheating scheme, prosecutors said.

Jeffrey Bizzack, 59, of Solana Beach, California, pleaded guilty in July to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

He was sentenced Wednesday and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine and complete 300 hours of community service, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts said in a statement. He will also be under three years of supervised release.

Bizzack, an entrepreneur and former executive at the World Surf League, is the 12th parent to be sentenced in the college admissions cheating scheme that was allegedly orchestrated by William “Rick” Singer. More than 50 people have been charged.

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Prosecutors say Bizzack paid $250,000 to have his son admitted to the University of Southern California as a volleyball recruit, even though his son did not play competitive volleyball.

That was one part of the admissions scheme, according to authorities. In other cases, wealthy parents allegedly paid to have their children’s test scores boosted.

Bizzack will be allowed to self-report to a prison designated by the federal Bureau of Prisons, according to court records.

Prosecutors had sought nine months in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $75,000.

Bizzack’s lawyers wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed with the court that he accepted responsibility for his actions early on, and that he was forthcoming to authorities about his involvement. Friends, colleagues and family members also wrote letters of support attesting to his character.

Prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum that while "Bizzack's contrition and prompt acceptance of responsibility are significant and commendable" and warranted a reduced sentence, Bizzack knew what he was doing was wrong.

"Bizzack plainly was aware, in real time, that his actions were wrong, and that they would cause lasting harm not just to the college admissions process broadly but to another, real individual who would be cheated out of admission to USC as a result of Bizzack's fraud," prosecutors wrote. "And yet Bizzack pursued the scheme anyway."

Prosecutors said in the document that Bizzack was introduced to Singer in April 2017, and that by that summer, he had agreed with Singer to get his son admitted through what Singer termed the "side door," which involving bribing a USC official to designate his son as a recruited athlete. Prosecutors said that took a spot from a more deserving student.

Bizzack contacted federal authorities through his attorney after others in the conspiracy were arrested and admitted his role and agreed to plead guilty, prosecutors wrote.

The longest sentence yet handed down to a parent in the cheating scheme was for California vinter Agustin Francisco Huneeus, 53, who was sentenced earlier this month to five months in prison. Actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison and was released last week.

Singer pleaded guilty in March to racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges. He cooperated with authorities and wore a wire for the FBI. Singer faces up to a maximum of 65 years in prison.

Associated Press contributed.