Los Angeles CEO sentenced to prison as part of college admissions scandal

By Chris O’Brien
BU News Service

A California CEO became the second defendant sentenced to prison in the college admissions scandal Tuesday.

Devin Sloane, the founder of a Los Angeles water treatment company, was sentenced to four months of incarceration, 500 hours of community service and a $95,000 fine by Judge Indira Talwani, who is handling a large portion of the defendants in the case. 

Sloane is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. He is the second of 52 defendants to be sentenced.

“There are no words to justify my behavior,” Sloane said. “The crime I committed is unacceptable. I can only speak for myself when I say I take complete responsibility for this federal crime.” 

Sloane gave the University of Southern California admissions a doctored photograph of his son Matteo playing water polo and donated $50,000 to the USC Women’s Athletic Department, court documents said.

The donation came under scrutiny because of the involvement of Donna Heinel, a former USC Women’s Athletics administrator who was indicted in March with racketeering conspiracy and accused of receiving up to $1.3 million in bribes to relax athletic admission standards to non-athletes, according to the LA Times

Sloane had provided Rick Singer, with $200,000 to help get his son into USC via Singer’s Key Foundation, a supposed life counseling and college prep organization tied to many other cases involved in the scandal, according to a federal affidavit.

Singer has pleaded guilty to money laundering, racketeering, obstruction of justice and tax evasion, court records indicated.

“The defendant took step after step after step to commit this crime,” said U.S. prosecutor Eric  Rosen. “Despite everything, he still believes he committed a victimless crime. Some kid’s hopes and dreams are dashed because of what the defendant did.”

Sloane’s sentencing follows that of Felicity Huffman, who faces 14 days in prison, 250 hours of community service and a $30,000 fine for participating in an SAT score boosting scam investigated by the same FBI probe. 

Prosecutors said that while they had gone for “general deterrence” for similar crimes with Huffman’s sentencing, they sought “specific deterrence” for Sloane’s actions in the form of a more impactful sentence.

Sloane’s defense team had argued that his sentence should be comprised of 2,000 hours of community service throughout a three-year period of supervision instead of prison time. 

The defense referenced Sloane’s philanthropic history as a businessman, insisting that incarceration would interfere with Sloane’s ability to serve the community, and said Sloane was a good person who made a mistake.

“I do find problematic here the language of ‘making a mistake’,” said Judge Talwani. “Just because you’re a good person doesn’t mean you can’t do something wrong.”

Prosecutors had denied the effectiveness of extensive community service, instead identifying it as a crutch available to Sloan because of his wealth.

“When a defendant like Sloane comes to you and asks for 2,000 hours, he is telling you he can avoid his job and work in a public interest of his choosing … he is using his wealth,” Rosen said. “Prison is necessary here as a great leveler between rich and poor.” 

Following the sentencing, Sloane’s defense asked Judge Talwani for a non-binding judicial recommendation for Sloane to serve his sentence in a lower-security prison, which Judge Talwani said she would provide.

Sloane was able to leave the courthouse under supervised release. He will be required to surrender himself to authorities on Dec. 3.

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