College Admissions Scandal

Liquor Distribution Exec Sentenced to Prison in College Scam

Marci Palatella was among 50 parents, athletic coaches and others charged in the case

Marci Palatella, founder of Preservation Distillery, center, arrives at federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., on Friday, March 29, 2019. Wealthy parents appeared in court as the clock ticks down on plea bargains for their alleged role in the biggest college admissions scam the Justice Department has ever prosecuted.
Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The chief executive of a California liquor distribution company who authorities say paid $500,000 to get her son into college as a bogus athletic recruit was sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment on Thursday.

Marci Palatella, 66, of Hillsborough, California, was sentenced in Boston federal court after pleading guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud. She agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors in August, less than a month before she was scheduled to face trial.

Palatella was accused of paying $500,000 to get her son into the University of Southern California as a football recruit even though he wouldn’t really play on the team. Prosecutors said she also paid $75,000 to cheat on her son's college entrance exam.

Prosecutors previously agreed to dismiss the other charge she was facing — conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery — in exchange for her guilty plea.

Her sentence also includes two years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and 500 hours of community service.

Palatella was among 50 parents, athletic coaches and others charged in the case in 2019 that embroiled elite universities across the country.

More than 30 other parents have pleaded guilty, including TV actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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