Ex-USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic convicted in college admissions bribery case

BOSTON — A decorated former water polo coach at USC was found guilty Friday in the massive college admissions bribery scandal.

A federal jury in Boston found Jovan Vavic guilty of fraud and corruption. He declined to comment after the hearing and left court with his family.

Vavic, 60, who guided USC’s men’s and women’s water polo teams to 16 national championships, took about $250,000 in bribes for naming unqualified students as water polo recruits. polo so they could attend the elite school in Los Angeles, prosecutors said.

Vavic’s defense argued that he was just doing what he could to raise money for his dominating, championship-winning program as demanded by school athletic officials. They argued he never lied, never took a bribe and was a victim of USC’s desire to protect its reputation and cover up a ‘pervasive culture’ of accepting wealthy students who could provide exceptional gifts.

The university, which fired Vavic after his 2019 arrest, stressed that its admissions processes were “not on trial”.

Nearly 60 people, including rich and famous parents as well as college coaches and sports administrators, have been charged in the Operation Varsity Blues case, including ‘Full House’ star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli.

Also on Friday, Mark Riddell, a former Florida prep school administrator paid generously to take college entrance exams for wealthy students seeking admission to elite colleges, was sentenced to four months in prison. prison.

The Harvard graduate, who became a key figure in the high-profile scandal, admitted to secretly taking the ACT and SAT for students or correcting their answers.

Riddell, who had been cooperating with federal authorities in hopes of getting a lesser sentence, pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges in April 2019.

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins’ office had recommended the four-month sentence in court documents filed ahead of Friday’s hearing. Riddell’s lawyers, in their own sentencing memo, had pleaded for one to two months in jail, saying he was neither the ringleader of the scheme nor a college insider like the coaches and administrators of the college involved.

In court, Riddell apologized to students who lost college opportunities because of his “terrible decision.”

Riddell oversaw preparation for college entrance exams at IMG Academy, a school in Bradenton, Fla., which bills itself as the largest athletic academy in the world.

Authorities say the admissions consultant at the program center, Rick Singer, bribed test administrators to allow Riddell to pretend to monitor student exams so he could cheat on tests. Singer typically paid Riddell $10,000 per test to rig the scores, prosecutors said.

Riddell, who was fired from the IMG Academy, earned more than $200,000 by cheating on more than 25 exams, prosecutors said.