An athletic department administrator asked to investigate puzzling recruitment decisions at the University of Southern California a year before the admissions scandal broke was herself taking part in the fraud, according to new court documents. In March 2018, a USC official asked Donna Heinel to look into three students—Lori Loughlin's youngest daughter among them—"whose high schools were quite surprised to hear they were being admitted as athletic recruits," per the Los Angeles Times. Marymount High School in Los Angeles had expressed doubts that either Olivia Jade or her older sister, Isabella Rose, also admitted to USC, were "serious crew participants," prosecutors say. Heinel responded a day later that Olivia Jade rowed for a "competitive" club, emails show. USC's coach "thinks she has talent," she added.
In 2016, Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli had sent $50,000 to a USC account controlled by Heinel, the senior women's associate athletic director, who's now charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, fraud, and bribery in William Rick Singer's college admissions scam, prosecutors say. They add that the school's dean of admissions had warned Heinel about Singer in 2015. Singer, said to have helped orchestrate a fake athlete profile of Isabella Rose, asked Giannulli to send "the rest of the 200k," which "will be paid to our foundation," per CBS Los Angeles. Another email shows a USC official reached out to Giannulli, offering to flag his daughter's application and arrange a campus tour. USC says the offer was "neither special nor unique," per CBS, and not evidence of complicity, as the flag would only track the admissions process. (Read more college admissions bribery scandal stories.)