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Agustin Huneeus Jr. stepping aside from running family wine company amid charges in school bribing scandal

by Kerana Todorov
April 01, 2019

Napa Valley vintner Agustin Huneeus Jr. is stepping aside from running his family’s wine company as he and other wealthy parents face federal charges for allegedly bribing school and college exam officials to help their children enter elite colleges. Huneeus’ father and company founder, Augustin Huneeus Sr., is taking over Huneeus Vintners’ top managerial position.

“To ensure smooth operations of Huneeus Vintners, Agustin Huneeus Sr., founder of Huneeus Vintners and Quintessa, has been appointed to represent the family’s interest in Huneeus Vintners. Agustin Francisco Huneeus Jr. has stepped down from his position,” Leslie Sullivan, estates director at Huneeus Vintners, said Saturday.

Agustin Huneeus Jr., 53, of San Francisco, and half-a-dozen other parents involved in the alleged scheme, appeared in court Friday in Boston, according to news reports. They did not enter a plea.

Huneeus, who remains out of custody on $1 million bail, allegedly wanted to have his daughter enter the University of Southern California as a water polo athlete, according to court records.

Federal officials alleged Huneeus paid a college counselor-turned informant $50,000 to have a proctor correct his daughter’s SAT exam to boost her scores and to prepare a fake athlete profile to facilitate the teenager’s admission into USC, according to court records. Huneeus was expected to pay another $200,000 to a nonprofit with ties to the counselor, William “Rick” Singer, once his daughter was admitted, according to a court affidavit filed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Singer, who has cooperated with law enforcement in exchange for leniency, has pleaded guilty to a host of charges. He faces decades behind bars.

Singer did not have a photo of the teen, according to court documents, so he allegedly forwarded a packet to USC that included a photo of another individual playing water polo, according to the affidavit.

Huneeus allegedly wrote last fall a $50,000 check to “USC Women’s Athletic Board” after USC senior associate athletic Donna Heinel sent a preliminary letter of acceptance for his daughter, according to court records. Singer said Huneeus would have had to write a $200,000 check a foundation that belonged to Singer once Huneeus’ daughter received her final letter of acceptance, according to a court affidavit. Huneeus and the other parents were arrested March 12, according to court filings.

Altogether, 50 people, including coaches at USC, UCLA, Yale and other colleges, have been charged or indicted in connection with the alleged scam, according to court records.

Agustin Huneeus Jr. was listed as Huneeus Vintners LLC’s managing member with the California Secretary of State.

The Huneeus family’s holdings include Quintessa, a winery off the Silverado Trail in the heart of the Napa Valley. As of this weekend, the winery’s website remained up. However, Huneeus Vintners’ page read “We are making improvements and will be back up in early April.”

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