HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The FBI arrested a University of Southern California water polo coach in Waikiki on Tuesday as part of an extensive ― and embarrassing ― college bribery scheme involving 50 high-profile people, from other college coaches to Hollywood stars to wealthy entrepreneurs.
The FBI confirmed agents arrested decorated college coach Jovan Vavic shortly after 7 a.m. He appeared in federal court in Honolulu on Tuesday afternoon and was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond.
The no. 1 USC women’s water polo team was scheduled to play against the University of Hawaii on Saturday.
Details on Vavic’s arrest are still developing, but the case was in connection with a scheme — dubbed Operation Varsity Blues — in which wealthy parents bribed college coaches and insiders to help get their children into elite universities like Georgetown, Stanford, USC and the University of California, Los Angeles.
The school announced Tuesday afternoon that it had terminated Vavic, a 14-time national champion, as well as senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel, who was also implicated in the scandal.
Authorities called it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department.
“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the $25 million bribery case.
“For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected."
Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were among those who paid bribes to help get their children into the elite schools, federal prosecutors said.
Authorities say coaches in various sports — including water polo, soccer and tennis — accepted bribes to put students on lists of recruited athletes, regardless of their ability or experience.
The bribes allegedly came through an admissions consulting company in Newport, Calif. Authorities said the founder identified and recruited coaches who were willing to accept bribes.
Parents spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million to guarantee their children’s admission, officials said.
Andrew Lelling, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, called it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.