Agustin Huneeus Jr., 53, of San Francisco, was one of 33 parents charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud by hiring William “Rick” Singer to falsify SAT scores and high school athletic experience in a nationwide college admissions scandal. Huneeus Jr., is a Napa Valley vintner and son of Quintessa estate’s founder Agustin Huneeus.
Agustin Huneeus and his family has hosted swanky fundraisers for the political elite. In 2016, his family hosted a Democratic mega-donor lunch and wine pairing at their Quintessa Winery for Rep. Nancy Pelosi, with Google’s executive chairman Schmidt as the luncheon speaker.
Federal prosecutors allege Agustin Huneeus participated in the tax fraud and cheating scheme in 2017 and 2018 to ensure his daughter would be admitted to University of Southern California.
William Rick Singer, 58, of Sacramento and Newport Beach, Calif., owner of the Edge College & Career Network and CEO of the Key Worldwide Foundation, was charged with racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Singer allegedly arranged with certain clients to disguise bribe payments as charitable contributions to theKey Worldwide Foundation, thereby enabling clients to deduct the bribes from their federal income taxes.
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“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said during his press conference announcing the $25 million federal bribery case, calling it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department.
“Huneeus allegedly conspired to bribe Donna Heinel, senior associate athletic director at the University of Southern California, and Jovan Vavic, the water polo coach at USC, to help his daughter gain admission at the Los Angeles university as a water polo recruit, according to the indictment,” the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported. Huneeus paid $50,000 to the dubious non-profit Key Worldwide Foundation, the operation at the center of the cheating scandal run by William Rick Singer. Prosecutors are calling the Key Worldwide Foundation a “purported charity,” given that parents took a tax deduction on the money they paid to Key Worldwide Foundation.
In the indictment, Singer instructs Huneeus to send a $200,000 check to his foundation. “…you’ll get your letter, thank you, with your write off, tax ID write off stuff, and then Jovan [Vavic, the water polo coach] will call me and say, ‘Okay, this is how I want the money split,’ and so on and so forth. And that won’t happen until around April 1st.”
Huneeus acknowledged in the call that his daughter was not qualified to be a USC water polo recruit, and expressed concern, and asks Singer, “And is there any risk that this thing blows up in my face?” Singer replies, “Hasn’t in 24 years.”
On or about September 22, 2018, Singer advised Huneeus that since his daughter had not sent a photograph of her in water polo gear in time, he used a photograph of someone else in the profile.
(The Indictment is HERE) Agustin Huneeus is on page 96.
Big Money Political Donor
Agustin Huneeus and his family has been a popular big money-political donor to California’s Congressional Democrats from the San Francisco Bay Area, and Napa Valley. Since 1998, Huneeus made 37 contributions to Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa Valley), amounting to nearly $50,000. California Globe contacted Thomnpson’s office to ask if the Congressman had plans on returning Huneeus’s contributions since he tried to corrupt a venerable California institution.
UPDATE: Alex MacFarlane, Rep. Thompson’s Director of Communications responded back and said her records showed that all of the political contributions were from Agustin Huneeus, Sr. However, the records California Globe used at OpenSecrets.org do not identify if the political contributions were from Huneeus Sr. or Jr.; they all state the occupation as “Quintessa/Huneeus Vintners,” “Huneeus Winery,” “Vintner” or one or the other name. Huneeus Jr., currently 53, was appears to be a part of the family business even back in 1998 when he was 32 – the date of the earliest political contribution. A Wine Spectator article from 2003 says Huneeus Jr. graduated UC Berkeley in 1989. the Huneeus website has taken down his bio.
The Huneeus family has made seven contributions to House Speaker Nancy Pelois (D-San Francisco), totaling $18,300, and $10,000 to Pelosi’s political action committee, PAC to the Future. California Globe also contacted Speaker Pelosi’s office to ask if she had plans on returning Huneeus’s contributions, but phone calls were not returned.
Huneeus also made:
- six contributions to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-San Francisco), totaling $21,600.
- six large contributions to the Democratic Congressional Committee totaling $118,500, as well as contributions totaling $33,200 to the Democratic National Services Corporation.
- a $500 contribution to Amanda Renteria, former political director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, and a Democratic candidate for Governor of California, who lost the primary on June 5, 2018.
- a $1000 contribution to Michael Eggman, a Democratic candidate for California’s 10th Congressional District in the U.S. House. Eggman unsuccessfully tried to unseat Republican Rep. Jeff Denham.
- $1,000 contribution to Jessica Morse, a Democratic candidate who unsuccessfully tried to unseat Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA), of California’s 4th Congressional District.
- contributions of $5,000 to Hillary Clinton, and $2,500 to Barack Obama.
Defendants in the Varsity Blues college scandal include CEOs, actresses, university athletic coaches, college exam administrators, and wealthy parents.