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benton-lane winery

Pinot noir grapes await harvest at the Benton-Lane Winery in Monroe in this file photo from 2013.

The owner of a mid-valley winery is among the dozens of wealthy parents accused of participating in a multimillion-dollar scheme to help their children get into prestigious universities through bribery, cheating and fraud.

Agustin Huneeus Jr., 53, of San Francisco is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud in the case brought by federal prosecutors in Massachusetts.

Huneeus is the president of Huneeus Vintners, a Napa, California, company that owns a number of wineries, including Benton-Lane Winery just south of Monroe.

Huneeus bought Benton-Lane early last year, according to published reports. The winery’s local owners retained the 142-acre vineyard on the border between Lane and Benton counties.

There is no implication that the winery or the vineyard is connected to any wrongdoing in the case.

Rick Singer, a California college admissions consultant, pleaded guilty this week to charges of racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the government and obstruction of justice.

Federal prosecutors say he conspired with college athletic coaches, test administrators and others to game the system so rich kids with weak academic credentials could get into big-name schools such as Yale, Georgetown, Stanford and the University of Southern California.

According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court by the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts, Huneeus agreed to pay Singer $250,000 to help his daughter get into USC by falsifying her SAT scores and creating a bogus athletic profile that portrayed her as a sought-after water polo recruit.

The complaint alleges that Huneeus sent two $50,000 checks for Singer to pay out as bribes to a test administrator, a water polo coach and an associate athletic director at the school, disguising the payments as donations to Singer’s charitable foundation for underprivileged children.

The owners of the vineyard did not respond to an email seeking comment on Friday.

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Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald