Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman among dozens charged in college bribery scheme

Entertainment

(CBS News)- Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among nearly 50 people indicted Tuesday in a widespread college admission bribery scandal. The racketeering conspiracy case includes the parents of applicants, ACT and SAT administrators, a test proctor, and coaches at universities including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.

Prosecutors say the coaches were bribed to indicate students were being considered as athletic recruits, because universities “typically apply different criteria when evaluating applications from students with demonstrated athletic abilities.”

Parents charged in the alleged scheme are accused of paying an admissions consultant, William Singer, a total of $25 million between 2011 and February 2019 for the arrangement. Boston U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said at a press conference Tuesday that Singer used some of that money to bribe test administrators and college coaches.

The FBI investigation into the alleged scheme was nicknamed “Operation Varsity Blues.”

“These parents are a catalogue of wealth and privilege,” Lelling said.  

Singer is also accused of arranging for students to cheat on the SAT and ACT. The method of cheating was laid out in the indictment’s description of his arrangement with Huffman.

Singer advised Huffman, who is married to actor William H. Macy, to arrange for her daughter to be granted extra time for her SAT exam by having her certified as having a learning disability. Prosecutors say Singer then arranged for a specific person to proctor that test and correct the girl’s answers. Her daughter received a 1420 on the test.

Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, the founder of clothing brand Mossimo, “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team – despite the fact that they did not participate in crew,” according to prosecutors.

Lelling said coaches used slots that schools had allocated to them for athletic recruitment, and “worked with Singer, meaning they accepted bribes…to convince everyone else internally that this was a good person for the team.”

“Singer worked with the parents to fabricate impressive athletic profiles for their kids,” Lelling said, adding that in some cases students faces were placed, using the image editing program Photoshop, onto the bodies of athletes.

Singer is expected to plead guilty to racketeering and other charges, Lelling said.

Huffman starred in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in the 2005 film Transamerica. Loughlin appeared in the ABC sitcom “Full House.”  

A total of 33 parents were charged.

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