Laura Janke, a former University of Southern California soccer coach who is cooperating with a federal investigation into college admissions fraud, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Boston to a racketeering conspiracy charge.
Janke, 36, admitted to conspiring with Newport Beach, Calif., college admissions consultant William "Rick" Singer to slip the children of wealthy and powerful families through what Singer dubbed the "side door" – a scheme in which Singer traded six-figure bribes for seats the universities set aside for recruited athletes.
Janke crafted scores of bogus athletic profiles, littered with fake accolades and digitally altered images purporting to show the children of Singer's clients playing sports they did not play, which Singer used to ensure they were admitted to elite schools as student athletes.
Janke was arrested March 12 after the U.S. attorney in Massachusetts unsealed an indictment charging her and 11 others with conspiracy to commit racketeering. Of the 12, all but Janke have pleaded not guilty.
Janke not only has admitted her guilt, she also has brokered a formal cooperation agreement with prosecutors in hopes of receiving a more lenient sentence. The cooperation deal, which Janke signed April 21, indicates that prosecutors believe Janke has offered or will offer credible information that can buttress their existing cases or build new ones.
In her plea agreement, prosecutors said they would seek a sentence at the low end of guidelines that call for 27 to 33 months in prison. If prosecutors decide Janke has given them information that's helped their investigation, they can ask a judge to sentence her below that range.
Singer, the scheme's admitted ringleader, has pleaded guilty to four felonies. Four of his alleged conspirators – a soccer coach at Yale, a sailing coach at Stanford, a tennis coach at the University of Texas and an administrator at IMG Academy in Florida – also have pleaded guilty.
Of the 33 parents charged in the investigation, five have pleaded guilty and nine others have indicated they plan to do so. The remaining 19 have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors from Massachusetts have hinted, in court filings and interviews with potential witnesses, that their investigation is widening and that more people will be charged.
Janke represents a potential wellspring to prosecutors, and her negotiation of a coveted cooperation agreement suggests she either already has helped their investigation or convinced them she can.
Court documents portray Janke, a former college soccer standout and Simi Valley native, as a key figure in Singer's athletic recruiting scam.
For years, prosecutors allege, Janke acted as a liaison with several coaches whom Singer bribed and created fake recruiting profiles for the children of his clients, including ones who passed off the daughter of actress Lori Loughlin and fashion designer J. Mossimo Giannulli as a coxswain, the daughter of a USC dental professor as a top lacrosse player, and the son of a Los Angeles water systems executive as an accomplished water polo player who competed in Europe.
Among Janke's co-defendants is Ali Khosroshahin, her former coach at Cal State Fullerton and former boss at USC. Also indicted on a racketeering conspiracy charge, Khosroshahin has pleaded not guilty.
Khosroshahin coached Janke, an accomplished goalie, at Cal State Fullerton from 2000 to 2003. When he took charge of the USC women's soccer program in 2007, he brought Janke with him as an assistant coach.
Khosroshahin was fired by USC in 2013, and Janke had left the school by 2014, according to court documents. Most recently, she was employed as the director of girls soccer at the Geffen Academy at UCLA, a college prep school affiliated with the public university.