Admissions Slots Not Property in “Varsity Blues”

Water Polo Team

In an order responding to a motion to dismiss by Larson LLP client Jovan Vavic and his co-defendants in the “Varsity Blues” case, U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani rejected the government’s theory that admissions slots count as “property” within the meaning of the fraud statutes, Law360 reported.

Partners Stephen G. Larson, Kori L. Bell, and Paul A. Rigali are representing Mr. Vavic, the University of Southern California’s former water polo coach, in the case. Mr. Vavic and his co-defendants are accused of accepting bribes to help parents get their children into elite colleges and universities. The government’s arguments include “the theory that wrongly obtaining an admissions slot triggers federal fraud liability,” the article noted.

Judge Talwani cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision overturning the Bridgegate convictions in her order and “seemed to agree with the college officials’ arguments from June that control of admissions slots is no different than control of lanes on the George Washington Bridge, which the Supreme Court ruled didn’t amount to property under the federal fraud statute.”

The decision, the article stated, “forces prosecutors to pursue their mail and wire fraud charges under the ‘honest services’ theory that says the coaches and administrators’ bribery scheme violated the honest work they owed to their schools. It “‘rejects various theories put forth by the government as to how these defendants may be proven guilty,’ including the property fraud theory.”

Even though the defendants’ motion to dismiss was ultimately denied, the defendants and their counsel found Judge Talwani’s order to be a positive validation of their arguments. Stephen told Law360 that the decision identifies the government’s “overreach, its flawed legal theories, and the threadbare factual allegations” against Mr. Vavic. 

Read the full article by Brian Dowling of Law360 here.


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