CHAMPAIGN — A day after four more parents pleaded guilty in the wide-ranging college admissions scandal, federal prosecutors filed new charges against 11 parents who haven't, including former First Busey board member Elisabeth Kimmel.
After she was arrested in California, where she has a home, Kimmel pleaded not guilty in April to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering.
The new charge alleges she and the other parents "conspired to commit federal program bribery by bribing employees of the University of Southern California to facilitate their children's admission," according to federal prosecutors. "In exchange for the bribes, employees of the university allegedly designated the defendants’ children as athletic recruits — with little or no regard for their athletic abilities — or as members of other favored admissions categories."
Kimmel is accused of paying nearly $500,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation, which prosecutors say was a phony organization that passed payments on to coaches and athletic directors at elite universities.
A federal complaint alleges that Elisabeth Meyer Kimmel sent $275,000 from the Meyer Charitable Foundation to the Key Worldwide Foundation that was used to bribe a coach to help her daughter get into Georgetown in 2013, and $250,000 to help her son get into USC in 2018.
Kimmel, 55, allegedly paid $275,000 in 2013 to help her daughter get into Georgetown University as a purported tennis athlete and $200,000 in 2018 to help her son get into the University of Southern California as a purported pole vaulter.
Neither of her children played those sports in college, according to prosecutors, who allege her son was confused when an advisor asked about his status as a track athlete.
Many of the parents allegedly made similar payments, filing personal tax returns listing the payments as donations, according to prosecutors.
In Kimmel's case, she allegedly made the payments through her family's charity, the Meyer Charitable Foundation. She serves as its assistant secretary.
In the case of Kimmel's son, prosecutors said the Meyer Charitable Foundation made a $50,000 donation to the USC Women's Athletics Board with a check signed by Greg Kimmel, and a $200,000 payment to KWF with a check signed by Elisabeth Kimmel.
The donations show up on the Meyer Charitable Foundation's publicly available tax forms and are marked as charitable donations.
Under the new charge, Kimmel faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines up to twice the amount of money laundered, if convicted. The previous charges each have maximum sentences of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and fines up to twice the amount of the money laundered.
Two days after Kimmel was charged in March, she resigned from the First Busey board of directors, which she joined last year.
Elisabeth Kimmel announced that she was stepping down Thursday, two days after she was charged by federal prosecutors.
Kimmel was the second-largest First Busey shareholder on the board, which her dad, August "Chris" Meyer Jr., served on from 1962 until earlier this year, when he had a previously-planned retirement.
The Meyer family ran Midwest Television, which owned WCIA-TV until 1999, and last year completed the $325 million sale of its San Diego TV and radio stations.