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Ryan Knutson: Agustin Huneeus is a wealthy winemaker in Napa Valley. He’s a second generation owner of a wine empire. And in August of 2018, his daughter was about to apply to college. And so, he got on the phone with a college counselor named Rick Singer.
Agustin Huneeus: Hey, Rick.
Rick Singer: Hey there.
Agustin Huneeus: Is this a good time for you?
Rick Singer: Yeah, it’s good for me.
Agustin Huneeus: Okay, great.
Ryan Knutson: Huneeus was worried about his daughter’s chances of getting into a top school. But on the call, which neither of them knew was being recorded, Singer laid out a plan to help. It involved water polo.
Agustin Huneeus: So, I just wanted you to walk me through the whole water polo thing again, and how it works…
Ryan Knutson: “The water polo thing” was a plan to pitch Huneeus’ daughter to the University of Southern California as a water polo star. The daughter didn’t play water polo, but that wouldn’t matter, because Singer was going to bribe a USC administrator to go along with the ruse and try to get her in. Singer’s charge for these services was $250,000. But Huneeus had some other concerns. Here’s our colleague, Melissa Korn, who covers higher education.
Melissa Korn: He’s worried that the public will catch on somehow.
Agustin Huneeus: Is there any risk that this thing blows up in my face?
Melissa Korn: (crosstalk) He’s not totally sure…