L.A. business owner gets 4 months in Varsity Blues scandal

Although his name isn’t as recognizable as some of the celebrities caught up in the Varsity Blues scandal, Deven Sloane was certainly wealthy enough to take part in the scam. As the owner of the Los Angeles water systems company AquaTecture, Sloane was able to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars to a fixer to get his son into USC on a water polo athletic scholarship, though apparently the boy had no idea how to play water polo. Now the judge has wrapped up the case, sentencing the father to four months in prison and various additional penalties. (Associated Press)

A Los Angeles business executive was sentenced Tuesday to four months in prison for paying $250,000 to get his son admitted to the University of Southern California as a fake water polo recruit.

Devin Sloane, 53, pleaded guilty in May to a single count of fraud and conspiracy. He is the second parent sentenced in a sweeping college admissions scandal that has ensnared dozens of wealthy mothers and fathers.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani also ordered Sloane to perform 500 hours of community service over two years of supervised release and pay a fine of $95,000.

Authorities say Sloane helped fabricate documents depicting his son as an international water polo star even though he had never played the sport. He bought water polo gear online, investigators found, and staged action photos of his son in the family’s swimming pool.

The prosecutors had been asking for one year in jail, but none of the defendants thus far seem to be taking the heaviest fall they might. While four months may seem like a long time for those not accustomed to life behind bars, given his lack of priors, with good behavior he might be out in eight to ten weeks.

But on top of that, he’ll need to pay a nearly $100K fine and do 500 hours of community service over two years of probation. One assumes he will have learned his lesson.

The fact that he was willing to plead guilty, acknowledge his crime and apologize probably played into the lighter sentence being handed down. The difference between Sloane and Felicity Huffman, who was previously sentenced to just two weeks, is described as being due to the fact that Huffman hid her scheme from her child. Sloane actively recruited his son into the plot, having him pose for photographs in the pool and pretending to be a water polo athlete.

Does this feel like fitting punishment for the crime? Karen has written a lot more about this scandal than I have, partly because I found the whole thing distasteful, but also not that compelling. I’ll confess that my first reaction was one of… “meh. Just rich people doing rich people stuff.” The only difference here was that they got caught. The wealthy can gain all sort of advantages like this through perfectly legal means just by paying for a new wing on the college library or hospital. Families of more modest means will never be able to compete with that.

That doesn’t mean that Sloane and the others shouldn’t be punished. They “robbed” other students who worked hard to get into that school of a slot. They’re bad actors. But then, we regularly see people committing armed robbery getting roughly the same sentences if it’s their first offense. Sloane likely won’t lose much sleep over the fine and I’m sure they’ll find some “community service” for him that doesn’t involve picking up trash by the highway in an orange jumpsuit. In that regard, I suppose he got off kind of easy, but I just can’t see myself getting terribly upset about it.