A Miami venture capitalist caught up in the biggest U.S. crackdown on college-admissions cheating was pardoned by President Donald Trump, becoming the only one of about three dozen parents charged in the scam to escape prosecution.
Robert Zangrillo, the founder ofDragon Global Management, was accused of conspiring to bribe university officials to help his daughter gain admission to theUniversity of Southern California. While many parentspleaded guilty, Zangrillo was part of a smaller groupfighting charges in a case prosecutors dubbed “Varsity Blues,” and his trial was scheduled for September in Boston.
Zangrillo was accused of paying a $50,000 bribe to USC’s athletics department and a $200,000 donation to a bogus charity. He was caught on tape arranging for another person to secretly take classes for his daughter and make it appear as if she was an accomplished rower, boosting her chances of gaining admission as an athlete, according to the complaint.
Trump, in a statement, called Zangrillo a “well-respected businessman and philanthropist” and insisted that Zangrillo’s daughter “did not have others take standardized tests for her and she is currently earning a 3.9 GPA at the University of Southern California.”
The pardon was supported by billionaire Len Blavatnik, developer Geoff Palmer, former Facebook Inc. President Sean Parker and longtime Trump friend Thomas Barrack Jr., theWhite House said in a statement. A spokesman for Barrack, an alumnus and trustee of USC, denied he had any involvement in seeking the pardon for Zangrillo,according to the Los Angeles Times.
Michael Pabian, a lawyer for Zangrillo, didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment, and neither did a spokesman for the Boston U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The pardon means Zangrillo won’t face a federal trial with three other parents accused of paying bribes to get their children into USC. More than 50 people have been charged with participating in the scheme led by college counselor William “Rick” Singer, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with authorities. More than two dozen parents have also pleaded guilty.
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