College recruiting fraud– dad accused of bribing daughter into USC subpoenas University records admissions records to test fairness

A father, Robert Zangrillo, accused of resorting to fraud and bribery to get his daughter into USC has subpoenaed the university for records detailing its admissions process and to what degree, if any, it is influenced by donations. His  subpoena requests records related to how the university flags some applicants as “VIP” or “special interest,” records of the university president’s involvement in such designations, a database of donors and the percentage of applicants admitted within a year of their families donating $50,000 or more, among other records. USC has asked a judge to quash the subpoena, saying the demand from Robert Zangrillo, a Miami financier whose daughter was admitted to USC in 2018, amounted to “an impermissible fishing expedition.”

To ensure his daughter, Amber, was admitted to USC, prosecutors say Zangrillo paid $200,000 to  William Singer a college admissions consultant, and $50,000 to an account controlled by a USC administrator. Zangrillo has pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

Singer pleaded guilty to four felonies in March and cooperated with federal prosecutors in Massachusetts who uncovered his scam. Donna Heinel, accused of steering Zangrillo’s daughter into the school, has been charged with racketeering conspiracy and fired from her post as the third-ranking official in USC’s athletics department. She has pleaded not guilty.

One of Singer’s employees took online classes for Amber Zangrillo, prosecutors allege, including retaking an art history course in which she had received an F. When she applied to USC in 2018 as a transfer student, her application said she rowed an average of 44 hours a week, 15 weeks a year, according to a complaint charging her father with fraud conspiracy. Prosecutors say she’d never rowed competitively.