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What is federal program bribery?

The fallout from the college admissions scandal is continuing. So far, over 50 wealthy, famous, and/or successful parents have been charged with federal crimes including conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy fraud and wire fraud. They're accused of engaging in cheating, misrepresentation and other illegal activity to get their kids accepted at various colleges and universities across the country.

This month, almost a dozen of the parents who haven't opted for plea deals found themselves facing bribery charges as well. Specifically, they were charged with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery.

Most of them are accused of attempting to bribe athletic officials and coaches at the University of Southern California (USC) to list the young people as incoming athletes in various sports programs even if they had no skills in the sport for which they were supposedly recruited. One man was charged with substantive federal programs bribery for allegedly paying bribes to get his kids into Stanford and Harvard.

So, what is federal programs bribery? It's defined under the law of a bribe valued at $5,000 or more at an "organization, government, or agency [that] receives, in any one year period, benefits in excess of $10,000 under a Federal program involving a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, guarantee, insurance, or other form of Federal assistance." That would include these and other universities. The statute covers government agencies and many other organizations as well.

Some people who are charged with federal crimes -- particularly "white collar" crimes -- didn't realize they were breaking the law. Of course, that may not get a person any leniency from prosecutors or judges. Whatever the circumstances, if you find yourself charged with a federal crime or even learn that you may be the subject or target of an investigation, it's essential to seek experienced legal guidance before you speak with any authorities.

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