FBI Arrests 2 San Diegans in College Admission Bribery Scandal

Among the wealthy defendants accused of paying bribes to assure their children’s acceptance into elite colleges are Elisabeth Kimmel, former owner of KFMB-TV, San Diego’s CBS affiliate, and Toby MacFarlane, a businessman from Del Mar.

Kimmel was arrested without incident at approximately 6 a.m. Tuesday at her home on La Jolla Rancho Road, FBI spokeswoman Davene Butler told NBC 7.

Kimmel is accused of participating in an illegal conspiracy to get her daughter into Georgetown University and her son into USC.

Her daughter’s application to Georgetown stated that she was a “ranked player” in Southern California Junior Tennis during high school, according to the criminal complaint (pages 143-153). But prosecutors said the U.S. Tennis Association, which operates the Junior Tennis program, has no record of the daughter’s participation in that elite program.

The complaint notes that Kimmel’s daughter entered Georgetown in 2013 and graduated in 2017. She was not a member of the tennis team at the university. Prosecutors allege that Kimmel and her spouse used their family’s charitable foundation to funnel $275,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation, controlled by the alleged ringleader of the scheme, William Rick Singer

Kimmel’s son’s application described him as a three-year varsity letterman in track and field as well as one of the top pole vaulters in California, according to the complaint. Prosecutors say there was no school record of Kimmel’s son participating in track and field in high school.

The complaint alleges that defendant Laura Janke created an athletic profile for Kimmel’s son that “falsely described (him) as an elite high school pole vaulter” and included a photo of a pole vaulter said to be Kimmel’s son, but which in fact showed another, unrelated athlete.

According to the complaint, Kimmel’s son did not know he’d been admitted to USC as a recruited athlete.

Prosecutors say Kimmel’s family charity issued a $200,000 check to the Key Worldwide Foundation in February, 2018. The Kimmel-controlled charity also allegedly paid $50,000 to the USC Women’s Athletic Board, via a check written by Kimmel’s spouse. Kimmel’s son was admitted to USC in March, 2018.

In July, 2018, following their son’s visit to USC for orientation, the Kimmels were recorded on a wire-tapped phone call describing how their son was approached by a university advisor who asked about his participation in track and field.

Kimmel allegedly said, “So we have to hope this advisor doesn’t start poking around?” according to the complaint.

The federal complaint describes Toby MacFarlane as a former executive of a title insurance company. His daughter was notified of her admission to USC in February 2017 as a student-athlete, prosecutors said.

According to the complaint, MacFarlane’s daughter graduated from USC in 2018 without playing soccer for the university. MacFarlane’s son was admitted to USC as a student athlete in 2017. As part of his application, prosecutors allege an online profile was created describing the teenager as a 6-foot-1 basketball player when the student was actually 5-feet, 5-inches tall. He withdrew from the university in May 2018 without playing basketball for the university.

The complaint alleges that MacFarlane paid $200,000 to facilitate his daughter’s acceptance by USC, and $250,000 to secure his son’s admission to the private university.

On Tuesday, MacFarlane was arraigned in federal court downtown. He did not enter into a plea and was freed on his own recognizance -- meaning he promised he would attend all upcoming court proceedings. He did not have to pay bail or post bond.

On Wednesday, Kimmel skipped a scheduled appearance in federal court. The magistrate judge said arrangements were being made for Kimmel to make her first court appearance in Boston, where the indictment was handed down.

Kimmel hired former U.S. Attorney Greg Vega for the Southern District of California as her defense.

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