The former owner of San Diego's KFMB television stations, who paid more than $500,000 to get her children into prestigious universities as part of the wide-ranging college admissions bribery scandal, was sentenced Thursday.
Elisabeth Kimmel, of La Jolla, will spend six weeks in prison and one year in home confinement after pleading guilty earlier this year to a federal charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and received the agreed-upon sentence reached through the plea deal.
She is the 29th parent to be sentenced in the U.S. Department of Justice case nicknamed “Operation Varsity Blues.”
According to court records, Kimmel has been ordered to self-surrender by Jan. 12 to begin her custodial term. In addition to custody, Kimmel will be on two years of supervised release -- half of which includes home confinement -- and received a $250,000 fine.
Operation Varsity Blues
Kimmel previously owned KFMB, known as CBS 8 in San Diego, until the station was sold to Tegna in 2018.
Kimmel agreed with William “Rick” Singer — a college admissions consultant and ringleader of the plot — and others to pay $275,000 to get her daughter admitted to Georgetown University as a tennis recruit, even though she was not a competitive tennis player, prosecutors said.
A complaint said her daughter’s application to Georgetown stated that she was a “ranked player” in Southern California Junior Tennis during high school. 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.
Gordon Ernst, the former Georgetown tennis coach, allegedly allocated a tennis admission slot to Kimmel's daughter, according to prosecutors. Ernst has pleaded not guilty to a variety of charges and is scheduled to stand trial in November.
Sign up for our Breaking newsletter to get the most urgent news stories in your inbox.
Kimmel, the former head of Midwest Television Inc. also agreed with Singer and others to pay $250,000 to get her son admitted to the University of Southern California as a pole vault recruit, even though he was not a pole vaulter, prosecutors said.
The complaint alleges that another defendant 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.
Kimmel had previously pleaded not guilty and sought to have the charges dismissed.
The prosecution's sentencing papers state, “Despite a privileged upbringing, a net worth totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, and degrees from two of the most prestigious academic institutions in the world -- including a law degree -- the defendant chose repeatedly to break the law, and to buy her children opportunities they did not deserve. She knew better; but she chose, again and again, to cheat and lie.”
In Kimmel's sentencing papers, her attorneys wrote that she was“intensely remorseful” and “mortified at her own involvement in this scandal and the harm it has caused.”
The defense filing states that the scheme's mastermind, William “Rick” Singer, “warped her thinking” and that Kimmel was not aware of all of the details involved in the scheme, yet “went along with Singer's fraudulent plan.”
Singer pleaded guilty in early 2019 but has yet to be sentenced. Ernst pleaded guilty in October and is set to be sentenced early next year.
Dozens of famous and wealthy parents, as well as about a dozen college coaches and athletic administrators, have been charged in the conspiracy, which involved large bribes to get undeserving children into elite U.S. universities with rigged test scores or inflated athletic accomplishments.