Former surfing executive sentenced to 2 months in prison for college admissions scam

Posted at 6:50 PM, Oct 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-30 18:53:04-04

(CNN) — A former World Surf League executive was sentenced Wednesday to two months in prison for paying $250,000 in bribes to get his son into the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors in Boston said.

Jeffrey Bizzack, 59, the former business partner of pro surfer Kelly Slater, pleaded guilty in July to conspiracy to commit fraud. He is the 12th parent to be sentenced in the sprawling scam to cheat, bribe and lie in an attempt to game the college admissions system.

The other parents who have pleaded guilty, including actress Felicity Huffman, have received punishments ranging from probation to five months in prison.

Prosecutors had asked that Bizzack be sentenced to nine months in prison and a $75,000 fine, while his attorneys asked that he be sentenced to probation and community service.

Prior to his guilty plea, Bizzack was an executive at the World Surf League and at the Kelly Slater Wave Company, court documents state.

Slater, one of the most well-known surfers in the world, praised Bizzack as his business partner in an interview with Australian surfing magazine Tracks in 2017.

“He’s been my partner in everything I’ve done in the past few years… I’ve been the face of it but Jeff is just the bones and structure of everything that we’ve done,” he told the magazine.

$250,000 plan to get into USC

Bizzack hatched a plan with Rick Singer, the scam’s mastermind, to pay $250,000 to get his son into USC as a recruited volleyball player, even though his son did not play the sport competitively, prosecutors alleged.

An athletic profile purporting to be of Bizzack’s son falsely said he was a nationally ranked volleyball player and included a photo of another person playing the sport, according to court documents.

Bizzack’s son was accepted to USC as a recruited athlete in late 2017. In exchange, Bizzack paid $50,000 to an account operated by former USC athletics official Donna Heinel and $200,000 to Singer’s sham charity, the court documents state.

“Rick, A big thank you for all your help with [my son]! He is thrilled about U.S.C. and is still on cloud nine!” Bizzack wrote in a check to Singer.

Singer has pleaded guilty to several conspiracy charges and has been cooperating with prosecutors. Heinel, who was fired by USC in March, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering and was charged last week with additional conspiracy and fraud charges.

Bizzack was not among the initial arrest of 33 parents in the college admissions scam in March. Once the scheme was made public, he hired lawyers and reached out to the government to admit his involvement and plead guilty, court documents state.

Both his attorneys and prosecutors said that willingness to accept responsibility showed his remorse.

“He is remorseful, ashamed and accepting of the punishment this Court will impose. Mr. Bizzack has taken extraordinary, early and continuous steps to take responsibility for his conduct — actions that speak louder than words,” they wrote.

“Bizzack’s contrition and prompt acceptance of responsibility are significant and commendable,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.