Ex-USC soccer coach tells of faking athletic credentials

National News

FILE – This March 12, 2019, file photo shows the University Village area of the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. A former assistant women’s soccer coach at the University of Southern California testified Monday, Sept. 27, 2021 during the first trial in the nationwide college admissions bribery scandal that she regularly created fake athletic profiles with exaggerated accomplishments to help get unqualified students admitted to the school. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

BOSTON (AP) — A former assistant women’s soccer coach at the University of Southern California testified Monday during the first trial in the nationwide college admissions bribery scandal that she regularly created fake athletic profiles with exaggerated accomplishments coupled with images she found on Google to help get unqualified students admitted.

Laura Janke, 39, of North Hollywood, California, took the stand in U.S. District Court in Boston in the trial of former casino executive Gamal Abdelaziz and former Staples and Gap Inc. executive John Wilson, The Boston Globe reported.

They are among dozens of rich and famous parents charged in the Operation Varsity Blues case, which involved large payments to get undeserving children into elite U.S. universities with rigged test scores or phony athletic accomplishments.

When it came time to put together an applicant’s profile, Janke said she generally didn’t even know whether the student played a sport.

Janke, who worked at USC from 2007 to 2014, testified that she falsified the athletic profile of Abdelaziz’s daughter, making it look like she was a basketball recruit from a Hong Kong school. Abdelaziz is charged with paying $300,000 to get his daughter into USC as a basketball player even though she couldn’t even make her high school varsity team.

“I had to make it believable enough without raising any red flags,” Janke said.

Wilson, who heads a Massachusetts private equity firm, is charged with paying $220,000 to have his son designated as a USC water polo recruit and an additional $1 million to buy his twin daughters’ ways into Harvard and Stanford.

Their defense attorneys argued in court documents that their clients had no knowledge of any false information submitted about their children, and they thought they were making legitimate contributions to the universities.

Janke said she coordinated with college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer, the man prosecutors say masterminded the entire operation.

And even though Janke put together the fake profiles, she never met or communicated with any parents, she said.

Janke was charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, but in May 2019 she pleaded guilty in exchange for her testimony and a lenient sentence. No sentencing date has been scheduled.

Janke said in court she wanted to set an example for her own daughters.

“I need to show them that you need to take responsibility even when you’ve really messed up, and that’s what I’ve done,” Janke said.

Singer has also pleaded guilty in exchange for his cooperation with investigators.

Among the parents who have already pleaded guilty and served their sentences are actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin — and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli.

Three other parents are scheduled to go to trial in January.

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This story has been changed to correct the name of the former USC soccer coach to Laura Janke, instead of Lisa Janke.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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