Judge Hands Out Longest Prison Sentence In College Admissions Scandal

Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe/Getty Images.
A former California real estate executive was sentenced to six months in prison on Wednesday for his role in the college admissions scandal. This is, to date, the longest sentence handed down for any defendant in the case, though prosecutors actually recommended he be reprimanded even further.
According to NBC News, prosecutors initially recommended a 15-month sentence for Toby MacFarlane, 56. In June, MacFarlane pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud after he allegedly paid out $450,000 in bribes to scammers. In exchange for their help, MacFarlane’s two children were accepted to the University of Southern California as star sports recruits. His daughter graduated from the school in 2018 without ever having played soccer, and his son withdrew after being admitted without ever playing basketball.
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In addition to his prison sentence, MacFarlane was also ordered to pay a fine of $150,000, to perform 200 hours of community service and to be under two years of supervised release, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.
“I knew it was wrong, but at the time I was feeling completely overwrought and all I could think of was not having to worry about my kids getting into college,” MacFarlane wrote in a letter to the judge, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Foolishly and selfishly, I took what seemed like an easy way out.”
Previously, the longest sentence handed down by a judge had belonged to California winemaker Agustin Francisco Huneeus, 53, who was sentenced to five months in prison in October after pleading guilty to similar charges.
More than 50 people have been indicted in the far-reaching scandal. Dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” by the media, the scam captured national attention due to the involvement of several high-profile celebrities and public figures, including the actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Huffman, for her part, was released from a California federal prison on October 25 after serving 11 days on a two week sentence. 
But Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have yet to be sentenced in perhaps the most high-profile court decision in the case as a whole. The differences in how they’ve responded to charges have raised suspicions about whether there will be major discrepancies in the punishments they’re eventually handed.
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Both Loughlin and Giannulli have pleaded not guilty to the charges of fraud and money laundering they’re facing after they allegedly paid $500,000 to pass their daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli, 19, and Isabella Rose Giannulli, 20, off as USC crew team recruits. The couple, who are facing up to 50 years in prison, were hit with an additional one count each of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery in October.
Lawyers for the famous couple are due back in Boston federal court for a status conference on January 17, 2020, but in a waiver of appearance for arraignment, the actress wrote that the former Full House actress “respectfully requests that the Court to accept this waiver and enter Ms. Loughlin’s plea of not guilty.”
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