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Huneeus Pleads Guilty In Connection With College Exam Scandal

by Kerana Todorov
May 22, 2019

Napa Valley vintner Agustin Francisco Huneeus Jr. pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Boston in connection to the nationwide college admission cheating scandal involving nearly three dozen wealthy parents, according to Massachusetts prosecutors.

Huneeus, 53, of San Francisco, faces 15 months in prison under the terms of the plea agreement, according to the written statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 4 in Boston. Prosecutors will also recommend to the court that Huneeus spend one additional year of supervised release and pay a $55,000 fine.

Nearly three-dozen wealthy parents, including Hollywood stars Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, were arrested and charged in March for paying thousands of dollars in bribes to facilitate their children’s admission into elite colleges across the country. More than a dozen coaches, college entrance test officials and others were also either indicted or charged in connection with the scam.

Huneeus and more than a dozen defendants in April agreed to plead guilty instead of going to trial.

Federal prosecutors said Huneeus paid $300,000 to a Newport Beach-based private college counselor to have one of his daughters admitted into USC as a water polo player. The counselor, William “Rick” Singer, had someone correct the teen’s college entrance exam; he also created a fake water polo profile for the daughter to help her enter USC, prosecutors said in court filings. Singer has pleaded guilty to multiple felony charges.

Also pleading guilty Tuesday was New York attorney Gordon Caplan, a Greenwich, Conn., resident, who paid $75,000 to have an official correct his daughter’s college entrance exam, according to federal prosecutors. Caplan faces one year of supervisory release under the terms of his plea agreement.

Huneeus issued a written apology after his court appearance Tuesday.

“With my plea today, I am taking full responsibility for my wrongful actions. My life has been devoted to my family and the people I have worked with and for. I have disappointed them all and brought shame on myself and the people I love,” Huneeus said.

“While I wish I could go back and make different and better choices, of course I cannot. What I can do now is to say: I am sorry and I apologize,” he continued. “Beyond my circle of family, friends, and colleagues, I also apologize to students who work hard to get into college on their own merit, as well as to their families.”

“Today’s plea was an important step in my effort to take responsibility and accept the consequences for acts that I deeply regret, and I hope that with time and effort I will be able to earn back the respect of the people whose trust I have betrayed,” Huneeus said.

Huneeus pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Without a plea, these charges carry up to 20 years in prison.

Huneeus Vintners LLC in late March stated that Huneeus’ father and company founder, Agustin Huneeus Sr., had been appointed to “represent the family’s interest in Huneeus Vintners.”

The company on May 17 indicated in a filing with the California Secretary of State that an entity known as “HV Senior Management Corp.” is the company’s manager. HV Senior Management, which has a San Francisco address, was registered in Delaware. The document was filed May 17.

Huneeus Vintners’ holdings include wineries in California and Oregon including Quintessa, Benton-Lane and Flowers Vineyards & Winery.

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