Whiskey Distiller Mom Nets Prison Time in USC Long Snapper College Scam

If arranging for a daughter or son to be admitted into college as a fake tennis player or a fake pole vaulter sounds like a bad idea, how about having the child falsely depicted as a football recruit to a storied program?

Marci Palatella, 66, tried the “even worse” option. It failed. Badly.

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The CEO of International Beverage paid $575,000 to inflate the SAT score of her son, described as a B student, and get him admitted into the University of Southern California as a Trojans football recruit.

On Thursday, Judge Nathaniel Gorton sentenced Palatella to six weeks in prison, two years of supervised release and 500 hours of community service. The Boston-based judge also fined her $250,000.

Palatella, a Hillsborough, Calif., resident whose Preservation Distillery in Kentucky produces craft bourbon and whiskey, pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services mail fraud. She willingly partook in a scheme to deprive USC of the “honest services” of their employees—including an associate athletic director who accepted a six-figure bribe.

Like other wealthy parents implicated in Operation Varsity Blues, Palatella paid consultant Rick Singer to fix the rules of college admission for her child. The scheme initially involved a psychologist with ties to Singer providing medical documentation so that the son gained extra time on the SAT. Then the SAT proctor was bribed to “review and correct the answers” after the son took the test in March 2017 to ensure a high score: 1,410 out of 1,600.

In one email to Singer, Palatella committed to paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get her son into a top school. She had one condition: “He can never know.”

The football element of the ruse surfaced when Singer emailed Palatella that “the only way” her son would be admitted…


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