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Agustin Huneeus caught up in Varsity Blues scandal
Agustin Huneeus on Varisty Blues scandal: "My own ego brought me down." (youtube video screen capture)

Napa Valley Vintner Sentenced to 5 months in Prison for Role in ‘Varsity Blues’ College Admissions Scandal

Agustin Huneeus: ‘In the end my own ego brought me down’

By Katy Grimes, October 4, 2019 5:10 pm

Agustin F. Huneeus, the Napa Valley vintner who admitted guilt in the “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal, has been sentenced to five months in prison. Friday, a federal judge issued the ruling, along with a $100,000 fine, as well as 500 hours of community service.

In March California Globe reported on the “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal. Agustin Huneeus Jr., 53, of San Francisco, was one of 33 parents charged at the time 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.

Wine Spectator reported:

Addressing the court before the sentence was handed down, Huneeus said, “Today is a hard day, a super hard day. I want more than anything to pay for my crime and atone for the harm I have caused… The consequences of my crime have been devastating to my friends and family. I am ashamed.”

In his own letter to the judge, Agustin Huneeus explained he was introduced to Singer by a college friend. He said Singer would visit his family’s home once a month to discuss college essays, SAT tutoring and other run-of-the-mill matters.

“After several months of promoting USC for my daughter, Singer suggested cheating schemes that would gain my daughter admission to USC,” he wrote. “In a shameful failure, I went along with his plan. This was a horrendous decision that in addition to being illegal, did not support my daughter’s own hard work and ability, and set a terrible example for her.

“I realize now that cheating on her behalf was not about helping her, it was about how it would make me feel,” he continued. “In the end my own ego brought me down.”

“Huneeus hurriedly stepped down in March as chief executive of Huneeus Vinters, a company his parents built, after being named as one of the dozens of parents charged in the scam,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Defendants in the Varsity Blues college admissions cheating scandal included a total of thirty-five parents including Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. Huffman has already been sentenced to 14 days in prison and a $30,000 fine, as well as community service. Loughlin is fighting the charges in court.

California Globe also reported on Gordon Caplan, caught up in the college admissions scandal, was co-chairman of Willkie Farr & Gallagher, a venerable powerhouse of 650 lawyers, until forced to step down. “The firm scrubbed their beloved partner’s name and photo from its website with Stalinesque speed — before a trial, let alone a conviction. That’s because Caplan, named “Dealmaker of the Year” by American Lawyer just last year, is among the 32 parents charged Tuesday in a stomach-turning scheme to buy spots for their children at elite universities via bribery and cheating.”

William McGlashan, the managing partner of private-equity firm TPG Growth and a central figure in the “Varsity Blues” scandal, was a prolific donor to Democratic and California political causes” the Globe reported. “According to the racketeering conspiracy indictment filed by the US Attorney in Massachusetts, McGlashan paid $50,000 to Rick Singer, the operator of the corrupt firm, for a proctor to correct answers on his son’s college-entrance exam. To further ensure a spot at the University of Southern California, he was quoted a price to arrange to have his son recruited as a desired football prospect by a corrupt official at USC who was in on the scheme.”

The parents caught up in the scandal that the Globe reported on were also prolific donors to the Democratic Party and prominent Democrat candidates. McGlashan made campaign contributions to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Bill Bradley, among others.

Huneeus and his family made 37 contributions to Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa Valley), amounting to nearly $50,000; seven contributions to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), totaling $18,300, and $10,000 to Pelosi’s political action committee, PAC to the Future; six  contributions to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-San Francisco), totaling $21,600; and contributions of $5,000 to Hillary Clinton, and $2,500 to Barack Obama, among others.

Ringleader William “Rick” Singer pleaded guilty early on to multiple charges and it has been reported he is cooperating with the government.

Gov. Gavin Newsom just signed three laws Friday in response to the college admissions scandal which are slated to:

  •  tighten rules on when colleges can admit students who don’t meet standard eligibility requirements;
  • require colleges to tell the Legislature if they give preferential treatment to some applicants; and
  • prevent people found guilty in the scandal from receiving tax benefits stemming from bribes that might have been disguised as charitable contributions.


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