Updated 8:35 p.m. ET
A California businessman was sentenced on Tuesday to four months in prison and was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service and pay a fine of $95,000 for his role in the multimillion-dollar college admissions fraud scheme.
Devin Sloane, 53, admits that he paid $250,000 to get his son into the University of Southern California as a fake water polo recruit. He is one of 15 parents who have pleaded guilty in the bribery scandal that FBI investigators call Operation Varsity Blues.
Earlier this month, the same federal judge sentenced actress Felicity Huffman to two weeks in prison for paying a test administrator $15,000 to correct her oldest daughter's SAT answers. In all, 52 defendants — including 35 parents — were charged in the admissions probe.
"There are no words to justify my behavior, nor will I offer any excuses or justification," Sloane said Tuesday, tearing up in court. "The crime I committed is unacceptable. In my heart and my soul, I want what's best for my son. I realize now my actions were the antithesis of that."
U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani questioned whether these actions were really about helping their children.
"The crime that's at issue in all of these cases is not basic caretaking for your child. It's not getting your child food or clothing. It's not even getting your child a college education," she said. "It's getting your child into a college that might be called exclusive. Are they doing that for their children, or are they doing it for their own status?"
Prosecutors said Sloane deserved prison time because he stole an admissions slot from another student and failed to take full responsibility by blaming William "Rick" Singer, the consultant who masterminded the fraud scandal.
"Prison is necessary here as a great leveler between rich and poor," federal prosecutor Eric Rosen told the court.
Rosen explained how Sloane purchased water polo equipment, including a Speedo, water polo ball and Italy flag cap, and put his son in the family pool to stage water polo photos that were doctored to gain admission to the university.
Sloane then sent the photos to Singer and wrote, "Hope this works."
Rosen said Sloane used his dead mother as a prop for a fake donation and expressed outrage when high school counselors questioned why his son, who did not play water polo, was being recruited to play college water polo. Sloane's participation in the college bribery scheme, Rosen said, did not end "at the edges of his family's infinity pool."
Sloane was one of over 50 people charged in the admissions scheme, which included actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Earlier this month, Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison, 12 months of supervised release, 250 hours of community service and a $30,000 fine. Prosecutors had asked that Huffman be sentenced to a month in prison, saying she acted "out of a sense of entitlement, or at least moral cluelessness." She is expected to report to prison on Oct. 25.
Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty and are fighting federal charges, including conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering.
Singer pleaded guilty in March to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice. He is awaiting sentencing.