Among the 50 people charged by the U.S. attorney in Boston in a nationwide college admissions scam is an out lesbian senior athletic administrator at USC, who is now not only in deep legal trouble, but also out of a job.
The university on Tuesday fired senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel, one of the leaders of USC’s LGBT Athletic committee, along with a long-serving coach, following the announcement of the indictments, according to the Los Angeles Times.The FBI arrested Heinel and USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic earlier on Tuesday.
Heinel had been in charge of USC’s athlete admissions for more than a decade and reportedly worked closely with several of the indicted current and former Trojans coaches.
As Autostraddle first reported, Heinel is married to a woman. They have two young children together, and she is the only school administrator indicted in the wide-ranging investigation.
In a 2013 video from a panel discussion featuring LGBTQ members of the USC athletic staff, Heinel spoke about being openly gay, and how her parents rejected her after she came out.
Heinel called herself a loner, but prosecutors say that in the scheme, she played a central role.
Heinel allegedly worked with William “Rick” Singer, the owner of a for-profit college admissions company in Newport Beach, Calif., whose clients were wealthy parents looking to secure admission for their children to elite schools, according to court records. Singer pleaded guilty this week to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.
The irony was that his clients, including celebrities such as actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, could afford to enroll their children in the elite colleges and universities, but prosecutors say they needed the help of Singer, Heinel and their co-conspirators getting their children admitted because they otherwise might not qualify. Aside from USC, the colleges involved are Yale, Stanford, Wake Forest, Georgetown, Texas and the University of San Diego.
The role of Heinel and the indicted coaches, say prosecutors, was to help the children of these wealthy parents cheat on college entrance exams and falsify athletic records of students to enable them to be recruited.
Heinel, in particular, is charged with accepting $1.3 million dollars in bribes to “help parents take advantage of the relaxed admissions standards for athletics at USC even though their children were not legitimately being recruited as athletes,” according to the indictment. Parents would pay Heinel anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 per student, for enabling this “back door” scheme, which helped more than two dozen students gain admission to USC, as the L.A. Times reported and tweeted:
Federal prosecutors allege USC senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel accepted more than $1.3 million in bribes to facilities admission of two dozen students as recruited athletes. Many had fabricated athletic credentials. pic.twitter.com/8nAbmWi3ST— Nathan Fenno (@nathanfenno) March 12, 2019
And what may be even more shocking than being caught up in the massive college admissions scheme is the report, also in the L.A. Times, that Heinel had a side hustle, too:
Another one of those fascinating and telling details from the college admissions scandal: USC sports administrator Donna Heinel, who was charged with accepting and facilitating bribes, was *also* openly running a side business for athletic admissions: https://t.co/NuWAwghIu3 pic.twitter.com/BraB6uoGVN— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) March 14, 2019
The former senior associate athletic director is reported by Autostraddle to have worked with other current and former coaches to falsify honors, such as the “Beijing Junior National Team” and “Hong Kong Academy Team MVP” for the daughter of hotel and casino mogul Gamal Abdelaziz.
And the price, say the feds, was $300,000. “CW-1” is code for “cooperating witness #1,” Rick Singer.
The federal indictment says Heinel then sent a provisional letter of acceptance, promising the students were full of “potential to make a significant contribution to the intercollegiate athletic program.” An imaginary injury at the start of the school year would excuse the incoming freshmen from having to participate in the sport at all.
Under Heinel’s leadership, USC became one of only two schools to earn a perfect score from Athlete Ally for LGBTQ inclusive sport spaces in 2017, Autostraddle reported.
USC’s student newspaper, The Daily Trojan, hailed Heinel in a 2016 article about the “We are SC” rainbow t-shirts USC athletes were given for National Coming Out Day.
“We were thinking about a lot of ways to celebrate. The [athletes] said they wanted something that subtly shows support for gay student athletes and something that allies can wear proudly. It’s going to get people talking, and that’s really what we want to do.”
Now people are talking about Heinel, and USC, in ways neither ever imagined.
Shame @FelicityHuffman @LoriLoughlin#WilliamRickSINGER #RudolphMEREDITH #MarkRIDDELL #JohnVANDEMOER #IgorDVORSKIY #GordonERNST #WilliamFERGUSON#MartinFOX #DonnaHEINEL #LauraJANKE #AliKHOSROSHAHIN #StevenMASERA #JorgeSALCEDO #MikaelaSANFORD #DavidSIDOO #JovanVAVIC pic.twitter.com/UezANBBMfD— Mike Ryan (@MikeGordonRyan) March 13, 2019