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Former USC coach found guilty in college admissions scandal

April 8 (UPI) -- Jovan Vavic, a former water polo coach at the University of Southern California, was found guilty by a federal jury on Friday of fraud and bribery in an end to the widespread Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal.

Vavic, 60, was the last conviction to be reached in the scandal after 56 other defendants, including actors Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, either pleaded guilty or were convicted, according to a statement from the U.S. Justice Department.

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Vavic, who had coached the men's and women's water polo teams to 16 national titles, was arrested and charged for his role in the admissions scandal in March 2019, and was quickly fired by the university. His trial lasted five weeks and the jury took half a day to reach its verdict, The New York Times reported.

He was found guilty of receiving about $250,000 in bribes from the architect of the scheme, William "Rick" Singer, since 2013 to flag prospective students from wealthy families as water polo players to be admitted as recruited athletes whether or not they played the sport.

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Vavic's lawyers argued during the trial that donations were part of the "lifeblood" of the university and that $100,000 of the bribes he received were deposited into an account for the water polo teams, The New York Times reported.

His lawyers argued that the other $120,000 in bribes came in the form of scholarships to private schools for Vavic's sons paid by Singer's foundation.

Attorney Stephen Larson told The New York Times on Friday that Vavic was "disappointed" by the jury's decision and hinted that he would appeal.

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"Vavic fostered a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for hard-working student-athletes," said Joseph Bonavolonta, FBI special agent in charge, in a statement. "We are grateful for the jury's decision to hold him accountable."

Vavic is scheduled to be sentenced on July 20 and faces up to 45 years in prison. Singer has pleaded guilty and his sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer, both pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court in 2020 to charges of conspiring to fraudulently secure admission for their two daughters to USC. Loughlin spent two months in prison and has since returned to acting.

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Huffman pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest service mail fraud and spent 14 days in prison.

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