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College Admissions Scandal: Winemaker Agustin Hunneus Sentenced To 5 Months In Prison

BOSTON (CBS SF/AP/CNN) — The former owner of a California wine business was sentenced to five months in prison Friday for his role in the college admissions scheme.

Fifty-three-year-old Agustin Huneeus, of San Francisco, had asked the court for leniency and a sentence of just two months in jail with a fine. Meanwhile, prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 15 months in prison and a $95,000 fine.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani settled on 5 months, a $100,000 fine and 500 hours of community service -- the harshest sentence handed down so far.

The actress Felicity Huffman, who paid $15,000 to participate in the test-cheating scheme, was sentenced to two weeks in prison. Gordon Caplan, a former high-powered attorney, was sentenced to one month in prison for paying $75,000 to falsely boost his daughter's ACT score.

Meanwhile, Stephen Semprevivo and Devin Sloane, who paid to get their children into prominent universities under the guise that they were recruited athletes, were each sentenced to four months in prison.

Huneeus has admitted to paying $50,000 as part of a scheme to cheat on his daughter's SAT exam, court records show. He also admitted to paying $50,000 in bribes -- and agreeing to pay a further $200,000 -- to get her into the University of Southern California as a purported water polo recruit.

His daughter's face was photoshopped onto a newspaper picture of another high school water polo player as part of the plot.

The former chairman of the Napa Valley wine auction was arrested before finishing the deal, and his daughter was not admitted. He pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit fraud.

Agustin Huneeus
Agustin Huneeus, center, arrives at federal court Tuesday, May 21, 2019, in Boston, where he is scheduled to plead guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

More than 50 people -- parents, coaches, test administrators and conspirators -- were charged in the scandal, in which prosecutors said mastermind William "Rick" Singer either facilitated cheating on standardized tests or bribed college coaches to give students an advantage in the admissions process.

Several other Bay Area families have entered guilty pleas and are awaiting sentencing including packaged food entrepreneur Peter Artorio of Menlo Park, jewelry business owner Marjorie Klapper of Menlo Park, and Bruce and Davina Isackson of Hillsborough.

Of those charged, more than 30 are parents, accused of conspiring with Singer. More than 10 of those parents, including Huneeus, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud.

Singer pleaded guilty in March to four charges related to cheating on standardized tests and bribing college coaches and administrators.

In making their argument for giving Huneeus the harshest sentence so far, prosecutors emphasized in court documents that he is the only one up for sentencing to have admitted using both schemes.

He actively pursued the scam for two years, and told his daughter to have a "shut-your-trap mentality" about it, prosecutors wrote. She has not been charged in the case.

Huneeus has said he's ashamed and sees that his actions represent "the worst sort of entitlement."

Just hours earlier, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of laws targeting college admissions in the wake of the scandal. The new laws tighten rules on when colleges can admit students who don't meet eligibility requirements and requiring schools to tell the Legislature if they give any preferential treatment.

He also signed a law to prevent people who are found guilty in the scandal from receiving certain tax benefits.

The laws were among the 21 bills relating to higher education that Newsom announced he had signed.

Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting, a sponsor of one of the bills, says it's important for the Legislature to know about the admission practices of colleges who receive state-funded benefits.


© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten. AP and CNN contributed to this report.

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