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Folsom accountant pleads guilty in ‘Varsity Blues’ college admissions scam

Folsom accountant Steven Masera pleaded guilty in a Boston courtroom Thursday to federal racketeering conspiracy charges in the nationwide college admissions scheme run out of his ex-boss’ Sacramento nonprofit, U.S. attorneys announced.

Masera, 69, worked as accountant and financial officer for the Edge College and Career Network – the college counseling business and nonprofit William Rick Singer used to work his operation – until 2017. Masera was indicted in U.S. District Court in Sacramento in March for his role in the scheme.

Masera pleaded to a single count of conspiracy to commit racketeering Thursday before U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani. Masera has been cooperating since his March indictment with federal prosecutors, who are recommending a low-tier sentence including a fine and a year’s supervised release. Masera agreed in May to enter the plea, U.S. attorneys said.

Authorities alleged parents paid Singer approximately $25 million between 2011 and 2018 to bribe university administrators and coaches. Singer’s business also served as a front for a standardized test cheating operation to get students into prestigious U.S. schools and universities.

As part of the operation, parents paid large amounts of cash to have third parties take their children’s college placement examinations to lift their exam scores. Singer’s web of clients extended into Hollywood, boardrooms and college athletics, from television stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, to Loughlin’s husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannuli, to corner-office executives.

The scheme also implicated a number of coaches at prominent universities across the country accused of accepting cash to admit students under the guise of being student athletes. They included a Wake Forest volleyball coach, a University of Texas men’s tennis coach and former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, the first to be sentenced in the scandal earlier this month in Boston. Vandemoer was sentenced to six months’ home detention and was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, according to U.S. Attorney’s officials.

On Thursday, a second coach entered a guilty plea. Ali Khosroshahin, 49, University of Southern California’s former head women’s soccer coach, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering. The former coach’s sentencing is set for Oct. 25 in Boston. Khosroshahin is also cooperating with federal prosecutors.

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Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.
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